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Kate Middleton ends speculation, announces she is undergoing treatment for cancer

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The reaction first was shock, followed by concern, and then for some, shame. The Princess of Wales has been the target of rumor and speculation for a couple of months about her health, her whereabouts, about a photoshopped picture, about her marriage. It turns out that all the while, she was dealing with cancer. The princess announced her diagnosis in a video last night. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been covering this from London. Lauren, thanks for being with us.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: Tabloid's more circumspect now?

FRAYER: For now, at least. Today, the headlines in all the papers here say things like, Kate, you are not alone. Kate, cancer shock - all sort of extolling love and support for the princess. That's a big turnaround from even a couple days ago, when the U.K. tabloids were speculating about whether Kate's abdominal surgery was actually a nervous breakdown, why that Mother's Day photo of her and her children was photoshopped, what the palace was keeping from the public. Stephen Colbert on his TV show joked about rumors that Kate's husband, Will, was having an affair. The headline in The Atlantic magazine now reads, "I Hope You All Feel Terrible Now." Here's a woman named Sheena Best (ph) whom we caught up with at London's Victoria Station.

SHEENA BEST: It's so sad, right? We were saying it's really sad that she's been hounded in the press for, like, the last couple of weeks...

FRAYER: Yeah.

BEST: ...And then for that news to come out, it's so sad. Well, I hope all the press do feel really guilty 'cause God help her. Like, it's just a really sad.

FRAYER: So there's definitely some shame and introspection about the media culture here.

SIMON: Lauren, what do we actually know about the diagnosis of the princess and her treatment plan?

FRAYER: We don't know much. We know she was hospitalized for 13 days back in January for abdominal surgery. At the time, the guidance we got from the palace was that this was not cancer. But then Kate said in this video last night that post-op tests showed cancer had been present. The palace says she started treatment in late February. They're calling what she's getting, though, preventative chemotherapy.

Now, as you know, Scott, King Charles also has cancer. For both him and Kate, we don't know the type of cancer. We don't know the stage, where the treatment is happening, for how long it'll last - none of that. The king did issue a statement last night saying he's proud of his daughter-in-law, and he's in touch with her often.

SIMON: How did they manage to make this video without anyone knowing it was it was coming?

FRAYER: Yeah. The palace tells us it was recorded two days before its release somewhere outdoors in Windsor. That's west of London, where Kate and William live. It was filmed by a BBC Studios camera person. Only a handful of people knew about its existence. Kate is shown sitting on a garden bench, dressed casually, looking relaxed, her hair in waves down her shoulders. And it seems designed to reassure people, you know, that she's OK, but also to kind of tell them to back off in the most polite royal words, of course. Here's part of the video.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATE MIDDLETON: We hope that you'll understand that as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment.

FRAYER: She mentions her three children. The youngest is just 5 years old. She says it's taken some time to explain this to them. She also talks about her husband, William, and calls him a, quote, "great source of comfort and reassurance."

SIMON: And, of course, he's the heir to the throne. His father and his wife are now both in treatment for cancer. How does all this affect the monarchy?

FRAYER: Well, this is already what they're calling a slimmed-down monarchy, you know, with Prince Harry and Prince Andrew both having stepped down from royal duties. And, of course, this is after the loss of Queen Elizabeth around 18 months ago. With the king getting his own cancer treatment, Queen Camilla has been stepping in to handle some of his duties. So this will overall be a bigger workload for an ever-smaller number of working royals. And you know, Scott, Kate ranks absolutely number one in polls of which Royal is most beloved here. The palace had said she would be back on duty sometime after Easter. That looks pretty uncertain now.

SIMON: Lauren Frayer, thank you.

FRAYER: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ALBUM LEAF'S "THE OUTER BANKS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.
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