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Gene Wilder’s Wife Gilda Radner Went through Hell & Didn’t Want to Lose Battle with Cancer

Oyin Balogun
Sep 12, 2021
09:00 P.M.
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Gene Wilder once opened up about his late wife's battle with cancer 40 years ago. Little information about the disease existed at the time, and it sadly cost her life.

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Gilda Radner, wife of the American actor and famous TV comedian, Gene Wilder fought long and hard against cancer but lost the battle to the disease that changed her life.

"Saturday Night Live" star Radner passed away in 1982 at 42 after almost three years fighting against ovarian cancer. At the time of her death, Wilder was by her side.

Picture of actor Gene Wilder and his wife Gilda Radner | Photo: Getty Images

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Unfortunately, it was said that Radner's poor eating habits as a child could have caused her disease. During her battle with cancer, her husband stated that the former comedian was genuinely terrified about death and desperately wanted to live.

In his essay in People's magazine, Wilder talked about all his wife's experiences during her last days. He once found her scribbled notes, and a particular question she asked herself stood out. In wanting to know what would make her feel safe, she replied in the notes:

"If someone could for sure tell me that everything would be okay."

Gene Wilder as the ionic "Willy Wonka" | Photo: Getty Images

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But no one could, and all he could do was watch his wife go through the pain. Wilder would always try to offer words of encouragement and support for her.

During their battle against the deadly disease, he would constantly reassure his wife with kind words. He was honestly convinced that Radner would live and told her multiple times he would certainly die before her, which was not the case.

Wilder added that Radner always knew there was something more wrong with her.

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Wilder once spoke about how brave Radner was and how hard she fought the disease. Three days before her death at the Cedars-Sinai, she refused to be injected with morphine because she was afraid of not waking up.

He described how peaceful she looked the day she died. Wilder also admitted to being ignorant about the disease and confirmed even the doctors then only worked with whatever little information they had; he said in his essay:

"Gilda didn't have to die."

Actor Gene Wilder and his wife, actress and comedian Gilda Radner (1946 - 1989), circa 1987. | Photo: Getty Images

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Ten months after her first examination, the actual diagnosis was made; she had ovarian cancer. Wilder added that Radner always knew there was something more wrong with her, and even when those doctors said rest was all she needed, she knew they were wrong.

Wilder also spoke about her diagnosis at the beginning of the whole battle. Before discovering she had cancer, an internist in Los Angeles told them Radner had Epstein-Barr virus and chronic fatigue when the symptoms first surfaced.

He was convinced if they had discovered earlier, his wife might have won the battle against the deadly disease. The actor revealed that several other doctors could not detect the disease after several tests.

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Wilder and Radner holding a red heart together during the 1980s. | Photo Getty Images

After her death, Wilder put a lot of effort into enlightening the world about ovarian cancer to prevent someone else from dying due to lack of information.

He set up Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He also worked with doctors to set up support groups for women to provide sufficient information about the disease.

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