Barbara Windsor struggles to remember her friends' names just five months after going public with her Alzheimer's diagnosis, her EastEnders co-star Kellie Shirley has confirmed.
Babs, who played beloved Queen Vic landlady Peggy Mitchell in the long-running BBC soap, was diagnosed with the degenerative disease in 2014, but she and husband Scott Mitchell only decided to tell fans last October after her condition deteriorated.
Now, Kellie says her old friend no longer knows her name.
"A massive part of being an actor is remembering things. Your memories are such a big part of who you are. That's why I feel for Barbara. She remembers so much about the past as clear as day yet she won't remember my name," Kellie told the Sunday Express S magazine.
"We still have funny moments. It's not bleak all the time, but it is hardcore. It's a cruel disease that robs you of your memories.
"Any time I'm in town for an audition I'll meet up with Barbara and Scott for a cup of tea. I've always done that. I'm training with Scott so we meet up on a Friday, run together and catch up. I find running so boring so chatting makes the time go faster."
Barbara was, Kellie went on, a great help to her when Kellie started out in acting, and would always give her "pearls of wisdom" and share "tricks of the trade".
The older actress would also reassure her mentee on the EastEnders set if Kellie felt her scenes hadn't been good enough.
"I find the resilience she has inspiring," Kellie added. "I've been friends with her for over a decade. She says the most perfect things to me and she's a lovely, generous lady. It's tough to see how she's living with dementia."
In Barbara's honour, Kellie – along with Scott and many of Babs' former co-stars, including Adam Woodyatt and Emma Barton – are running the London Marathon this year to raise £100,000 for Alzheimer's research.
Ross Kemp, who played Peggy's son Grant Mitchell on the soap, recently revealed how Scott is finding things "hard, really hard" caring for Barbara.
"She's lovely. I go round and see her but it's getting harder," he said.
Earlier this year Scott revealed her condition was so bad she needs 24-hour nursing care and 'cannot be left by herself.'
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