Now 71 years of age, Vicki’s role in the hit BBC One series ‘Allo ‘Allo! quickly became what she is most remembered for. The actress also played Patricia Foster numerous times in ITV soap drama Emmerdale, before taking a break from acting altogether in 2014 to appear on popular reality show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! It was just before the star was set to fly out to the Australian jungle that she was delivered some devastating news, something that she had to keep hidden from show bosses.
Exactly three weeks prior to her flight to the jungle, Michelle was told that she had a cyst “the size of a small rugby ball” on her ovary.
Immediately fearing that it would be cancerous, the star’s life was turned upside down, with the future of her career hanging in the balance of test results.
Reflecting on the ordeal, Michelle said: “I had been to an exercise class and was doubled over in pain and weeing every 30 minutes.
“It was excruciating but I just put it down to getting older.
READ MORE: High cholesterol: Two visual clues on your face – ‘it’s a sign you have high cholesterol’
“But I was in so much pain I called out my doctor and he said, ‘I’m sorry, but you need to go to A&E now’.
“I felt my stomach and kept saying, ‘I’m really sorry’. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?’ I’ve never been ill in my life.
“I feared the worst, I thought it was cancer. Two days later I went to have a scan. They told me I had a cyst the size of a small rugby ball.”
With the cyst having been able to grow so large couples with Michelle’s tiny structure, even nurses at the time were baffled as to how the actress hadn’t realized sooner.
Michelle added: “The nurse said, ‘How could you not have known? You’re tiny and it’s massive.’”
Having lost two friends to cancer in the past, the anxious wait for her own test results brought back painful memories. But to the star’s relief, her cyst was malignant-non cancerous.
“I was so relieved when they said it wasn’t malignant. When this happened to me I thought of Lynda and Sally, I was thinking about everything they had been through,” Michelle tearfully recalled back in 2015, before going on to warn others to look after their health.
“You think, ‘How does this happen to these wonderful women’, and they had finally found real happiness.
“What happened to them and to me is a warning for women. You need to get these things checked.”
The NHS explains that an ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that very commonly develops on an ovary. They naturally grow and do not tend to need treatment, unless it grows to a large size, ruptures or blocks blood supply to the ovaries.
If the above occurs, individuals can be in extreme pain suffering from the following symptoms:
- Pelvic pain – this can range from a dull, heavy sensation to a sudden, severe and sharp pain
- Pain during sex
- Difficulty emptying your bowels
- A frequent need to urinate
- Heavy periods, irregular periods or lighter periods than normal
- Bloating and a swollen tummy
- Feeling very full after only eating a little
- Difficulty getting pregnant – although fertility is usually unaffected by ovarian cysts.
There are usually two main types of ovarian cyst, the first, functional ovarian cysts develop as part of the menstrual cycle and are usually harmless and short-lived; these are the most common type. The second, pathological ovarian cysts, forms as a result of abnormal cell growth; these are much less common.
As in Michelle’s case, most ovarian cysts are malignant, but a small number can become cancerous, so it is always important to get checked by a GP or medical professional. Especially if experiencing any of the above symptoms or are going through menopause, as Cancerous cysts are more common once individuals have been through this “change”.
Once diagnosed, ovarian cysts do not usually need treatment, and will be monitored over a few months to ensure that they naturally shrink.
However, for those who have larger cysts and are experiencing severe symptoms, surgery might be used to remove as much of it as possible. If an individual is postmenopausal, there is a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer. In this case, regular ultrasound scans and blood tests are usually recommended over the course of a year to monitor the cyst.
Just 17 days after the keyhole surgery Michelle flew out to Australia to take part in I’m A Celebrity, hiding her health scare from producers as she feared she might have lost her job.