‘I was sobbing’ - Barbara Windsor’s generous secret gesture helped save cancer-stricken EastEnders star from ruin

As soap favourite Heather Trott actress Cheryl Fergison was part of the Albert Square family, forming strong bonds with a number of her co-stars.

But it was the late and much loved Barbara Windsor to whom she will forever be particularly grateful after the actress helped keep her financially afloat.

Battling Stage 2 cancer of the womb Cheryl had confided in Barbara and her husband Scott - and they immediately dipped into their own coffers to ease her worries.

“When I was in EastEnders, I would go to Barbara’s dressing room everyday. I loved her stories. Barbara was no nonsense - if she didn't like something she would let you know - but she was also a great person to tell your problems too.

Cheryl admits she'll always be grateful for her close friendship with late Barbara Windsor
Cheryl admits she'll always be grateful for her close friendship with late Barbara Windsor -Credit:Tim Merry/Mirror Express

“She’d say: ‘whatever's going on in your own four walls, when you go outside, put on a smile - the public don't want to see you miserable, darling.”

Cheryl was diagnosed in 2015 after experiencing back pain and spotting and underwent both a hysterectomy and radiotherapy, choosing to tell only a few close friends about her ordeal.

News of the cancer stunned her to the core’ revealed Cheryl who now lives in Blackpool with her husband of 12 years Yassine and her son by a previous marriage, Alex, who is 24.

“I couldn’t believe the doctor was talking about me.”

Around this time she and a number of pals - including Barabara and husband Scott - had all attended Paul O’Grady’s 60th birthday party, where Cheryl had privately discussed her diagnosis.

Cheryl Fergison and husband Yassine
Cheryl Fergison was supported through her cancer ordeal by husband Yassine -Credit:Tim Merry/Mirror Express

Just days later Barbara - who played Queen Vic landlady Peggy Mitchell in the soap - and Scott asked Cheryl to call in to see them.

“I can hear her voice now saying ‘come on darling, how are you feeling? You know you can get through this’.

“I popped to the loo and when I came back Barb said, ‘right, darling, how much? How much are your bills and your mortgage because we’d like to support you.

“I was in shock and said no but Barb was insistent - I wasn’t earning. They simply sat there and wrote a cheque.

“I was sobbing but Barbara hugged me and said: ‘Don't worry. We're always going to be here for you.

“It’s something I will never forget.”

EastEnders stars Steve McFadden with Cheryl Fergison
EastEnders co-star Steve McFadden was also a huge support to Cheryl during her health battle -Credit:cherylfergison/Instagram

Neither will she forget the generosity of Steve McFadden - Phil Mitchell in the soap - who she says is like ‘a big brother ’ to her and who arranged for her to stay in his Cornish home so she could recuperate after her hysterectomy.

“The support meant the world to me,” remembered Cheryl whose on screen Albert Square character was murdered by bad boy Ben Mitchell in a row over money.

She also singled out Linda Henry, who played Shirley Carter in EastEnders, as someone else who stood by her as well as the late June Brown.

Cheryl, who is working on a one woman show which will hit the stage later this year as well as a planned stint in panto with her son, is now happy and healthy but determined to encourage other women to take their health seriously.

“Listen to your body. Even if it’s the smallest concern - go and get checked because if you haven't got health, you've not got no wealth.”