Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and former wife of Prince Andrew, has been diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer, just months after undergoing surgery and treatment for breast cancer.
Shock Diagnosis During Routine Check-Up
The 63-year-old’s diagnosis came after a routine check-up earlier this month at the **** Clinic, an exclusive medical spa in Austria known for its comprehensive health assessments for high profile clients.
During her appointment, doctors found the malignant melanoma on Fergie’s right shoulder and scheduled immediate surgery to remove it. The area had to be widely excised to ensure removal of any errant cancerous cells.
While the prognosis remains good after the successful surgery, the Duchess will require frequent monitoring and screenings to watch for recurrence of the melanoma. This latest health crisis comes on the heels of her brave battle with breast cancer throughout 2023.
Battling Breast Cancer with Grace and Optimism
In April 2023, Sarah underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. She faced the difficult news with openness and optimism, focusing on the incredible medical care she had access to.
She spent several weeks recovering at Royal Lodge, the home she shares with ex-husband Prince Andrew. Their daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were by her side, along with grandson August and the rest of the York family.
Once healed from surgery, Sarah persevered through months of radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. She continued appearing at public events, praised for her candor and courage. At an October fundraising dinner for breast cancer research, Fergie shared:
“Yes, the physical and emotional toll has been enormous, but I consider myself profoundly blessed. My doctors are heroes and the support of my family has lifted me up in ways I never imagined.”
Sarah credited alternative therapies like meditation and acupuncture with helping her through the challenging treatments. And while her iconic red hair fell out, she took it in stride, appearing publicly wearing various fun wigs matched to her outfit.
By December, Sarah was given a clear scan and celebrated being cancer free with a month long vacation in Switzerland to regain strength and energy.
Malignant Melanoma – One of the Most Dangerous Cancers
While skin cancer remains highly treatable if caught early, malignant melanomas can be aggressive and spread quickly. Sarah faces close monitoring and regular scans going forward due to this recurrence risk.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with around 2,500 melanoma skin cancer deaths in the UK each year. While more common in older adults, the rates of melanoma in younger people are rising faster than any other cancer in the UK.
|Type of Skin Cancer
|Yearly New Cases (UK)
|Basal Cell Carcinoma
|Sun exposure, fair skin, age
|Squamous Cell Carcinoma
|Sun exposure, fair skin, age
|Sun exposure, fair skin, many moles, family history
Early diagnosis remains critical, as survival rates are quite high when melanoma skin cancers are treated before spreading to other parts of the body. Sarah’s annual skin checks at **** Clinic enabled the doctors to catch this quickly.
The Palace released a brief statement sharing that the Duchess is in good spirits and focusing on rest and recovery after another cancer battle.
Ferguson No Stranger to Health Struggles
The Duchess of York has faced numerous health issues in recent years. Before these back-to-back cancer diagnoses, Sarah suffered from severe damage to her feet and ankles due to years of high heeled shoes. She has undergone multiple surgeries to fuse and rebuild her joints.
In 2021, Sarah caught a severe respiratory infection, likely exposed during one of her extensive humanitarian trips to Turkey. She spent weeks isolated at Royal Lodge last winter using supplemental oxygen to recover.
Additionally, the Duchess has been public about her decades long struggles with emotional health and self esteem issues. In interviews she has candidly shared her experience battling self destructive behaviours, shame, trauma response, intense self criticism, and coping through periods of disordered eating.
Sarah credits years of therapy, spiritual practice, as well as the support of her daughters and circle of friends with helping manage these mental health challenges. She has said that after so many perceived failures on the public stage of royal life, she is focused on “showing up imperfectly but genuinely as myself.”
Outpouring of Love and Support
As news of Sarah’s latest cancer diagnosis spreads, messages of love and encouragement are pouring in. Breast cancer organizations and skin cancer foundations that Fergie has supported as patron or through fundraising efforts are rallying behind her.
Her daughters Beatrice and Eugenie released a joint statement sharing “Mummy is being her usual stoic self, full of happiness and grateful for the excellent care she is receiving.” They went on to say, “We remain awed by her resilience and sense of purpose helping so many facing health challenges of their own.”
Prince Andrew also commented, “Sarah has overcome incredible adversity in her life. Every challenge only reveals her courageous and loving spirit more brightly. She makes our family so very proud.”
The Queen is reportedly distraught upon learning the news. As one Palace insider shared, “Her Majesty feels quite protective of the Duchess despite the ways their relationship has evolved. The Queen admired how Sarah supported Prince Andrew without question during his recent troubles. Seeing her go through this battle with cancer is simply devastating.”
With widespread empathy for all this strong woman has endured recently, it seems that Fergie may finally shake off the unfair “Duchess Difficult” label the tabloids stuck her with decades ago.
Sarah refused comment to the press directly per the Palace statement. However, a close friend of the Duchess revealed, “Sarah remains positive and believes everything she has survived puts her in a unique position to provide comfort to others facing their own health challenges.”
This empathetic mindset demonstrates the resilience and generosity of spirit the world has come to admire in the Duchess of York.
The Road Ahead – Gratitude and Grace
While questions abound regarding ongoing treatments, the Duchess’ travel schedule, and whether she will reduce engagements, the Palace statement indicated these decisions haven’t been finalized yet.
Sarah will meet with her full medical team early next week to develop a comprehensive plan moving forward. Concerns about the cancer spreading will likely lead to regular scanning and monitoring. As a result, the Duchess anticipating making fewer trips abroad this year.
With her ex-husband mired in controversy and scandal the past few years, her daughters busy with their own young families, Fergie has filled her days giving speeches worldwide relating her personal story in an effort to support various charities. Whether skin cancer recurrence will impact that work remains uncertain.
What does seem clear is that Fergie plans to move through this health crisis with the same combination of grace and grit she has modeled in recent years undergoing intensive cancer treatments. Rather than play the victim or isolate herself, the Duchess of York is sure to continue standing tall and shining her light anywhere it may offer comfort or hope. Those who know Sarah best describe her spirit this way:
She sees all of it – pain and joy alike – as a gift. And if she can transform that gift into some act of kindness, CREATE Foundation patron Fergie surely will. That’s just who she is.
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