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Britt Ekland, 77, describes the agony of finding out that her grandson had a terminal illness


Britt Ekland wears jeans. "Close because I can," she says defiantly.

She will turn 78 next month, but will she succumb to the lure of elastic waists and beige hand knitwear as she approaches her ninth decade? Of course not!

"Yes, jeans are for grandmas!" She cries. “I think the whole argument that you can't wear something because you've reached a certain age is out the window today.

"Women can wear pretty much what they want at any time in their lives." Britt, leggy like a colt, wears jeans for a reason.

She supports the genetic disorder charities – which have benefited 149 over the past 25 years – which this month will challenge us to wear Jeans For Genes to school, work and home to raise money for people with disorders like z sickle cell anemia, Huntington's disease, and muscular dystrophy.

Britt Eckland, who will be 78 years old in just a few weeks, told of her grandson Lucas, who suffers from adrenoleucodystrophy (ALD), a rare brain disorder that, on average, can lead to loss of vision, the inability to walk and move, and ultimately premature death ten years. Pictured: Britt with the little boy who is three years old

But Britt has a specific and personal interest in one condition.

The younger of her two grandchildren, three-year-old Lucas, suffers from a fatal hereditary disease that affects one in 15,000 people. Boys heavier.

Known as adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), it's a brain disorder that destroys myelin, the protective sheath that surrounds the brain's neurons – the nerve cells that allow us to think and control our muscles – and typically cause loss of vision, inability to do so go and move leads. and ultimately premature death, on average before age ten.

Practical and resourceful ex-Bond girl Britt, last seen on our screens on the BBC series The Real Marigold Hotel, doesn't waste energy on emotion, but she clearly adores her grandson Lucas and brother Cash, seven sons of Alison and Nicholai Adler, Britt & # 39; s son from her relationship with record producer Lou Adler.

Britt was at the Los Angeles hospital to see Lucas hours after he was born on April 8, 2017. He weighed 6 pounds 7 ounces and had no evidence that anything was wrong.

"It was just beautiful, wrapped in a blanket like a little burrito, with masses of dark hair," she says.

“The creeping thing about this disease is that your child is like any other until symptoms appear.

& # 39; Lucas has achieved all of his milestones. In a million years, you would never suspect anything was wrong with him because there is no visible evidence. & # 39;

Unaware, however, that the results of screening tests – routine in California but not yet in the UK – that arrived a few months after Lucas' birth showed that he had ALD. In fact, it was only last year that she was given the devastating news.

Britt supports genetic disorder charities - which have benefited 149 over the past 25 years - which this month will challenge us to wear Jeans For Genes to school, work and home to raise money for people with disorders like z sickle cell anemia, Huntington's disease, and muscular dystrophy

Britt supports genetic disorder charities – which have benefited 149 over the past 25 years – which this month will challenge us to wear Jeans For Genes to school, work and home to raise money for people with disorders like z sickle cell anemia, Huntington's disease, and muscular dystrophy

"I was with Nicholai and Alison in June and one night after the kids went to bed they said, 'Mom, we need to talk to you. "Lucas was two; an extremely happy little boy.

& # 39; He had always been a small bruise; so cute and with limitless energy. He's much more active than his big brother, in fact, so I had absolutely no idea something was wrong.

“It's only when I look back now that I wonder if Alison was protecting him a little better than Cash. We're a demonstrative family, but she seemed to kiss and hug Lucas more than ever.

“And that evening when she told me the news, I could see that she had been crying. I didn't know what to think. My heart sank.

Then she said, "We didn't want to speak to you until we did all of our research, or give you information until we knew it all for ourselves."

“They had known for two years before telling me, and I can understand why they wanted to know all of their facts first.

“I think they also wanted me to have a happy relationship with Lucas without being too anxious.

& # 39; It was a huge shock. Lucas is such a wild thing, like a little typhoon, and it was so difficult to put up with such a beautiful, entertaining, lovable little boy facing something so terrible.

“I had just taken care of him – I was working in LA back then – and when Alison and Nicholai went out for the day I took all of the pillows off the patio furniture and laid them on the floor for him to play safely.

Lucas and his brother Cash, seven, are the sons of Alison and Nicholai Adler, Britt & # 39; s son from their relationship with record producer Lou Adler. Pictured: Britt with Adler and Nicholai in 1974

Lucas and his brother Cash, seven, are the sons of Alison and Nicholai Adler, Britt & # 39; s son from their relationship with record producer Lou Adler. Pictured: Britt with Adler and Nicholai in 1974

"In retrospect, I was glad my motherly instinct was telling me that if he fell, that's what I should do because Alison said to me that evening," We have to be really careful with his head. "Apparently there is evidence that head injuries can cause symptoms."

Family photos Chart Lucas – mischievous and brown-eyed – drives his scooter in costume and hugs his big brother.

& # 39; From the energy and strength with which he attacks life there is no indication that he has this deadly condition.

And that's the point: the disease can be asymptomatic for years. But once symptoms begin to develop – usually by the time a child is four years old – it is usually too late to do anything to stop the decline in early death.

ALD causes the nerves in the brain to malfunction, so that language, reasoning and mobility are lost.

Once symptoms appear, boys with the condition usually only live two to four years as there is no treatment for the condition once it begins to manifest.

For Lucas, however, the outlook is promising, as he does regular biannual MRIs and blood tests every three months to identify the brain lesions that predict the onset of ALD.

Then, before symptoms even start, a bone marrow transplant is very likely to stop them.

It does this by replacing damaged blood-forming cells (stem cells) with healthy ones.

These healthy cells allow the body to break down fat-based substances that cause the brain to malfunction.

Britt spent most of the Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun in a bikini alongside Roger Moore

Britt spent most of the Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun in a bikini alongside Roger Moore

The success rates for such transplants, which are constantly improving, were around 95 percent in 2016.

"It's pretty remarkable – really wonderful – how bone marrow transplant works," says Britt. "And while there is no cure as such because it stops the progression of symptoms, the results are incredibly positive."

& # 39; Lucas will be able to live a perfect life. He can become a doctor, a lawyer, a plumber, or a motorcycle racer.

Once he has the stem cell transplant, he can do whatever he wants. And that's all because he had this important screening when he was born, ”she says.

“But for the boys whose symptoms are not detected early by an MRI scan, that's a completely different story. These children are dying. & # 39;

Britt, as the patron of Alex, the UK's leukodystrophy charity, is committed to making early diagnosis a routine here.

"It's such a devastating disease that it's hard to talk about," she says. "I'm working on reaching the government to get them on the UK screening list because it's the difference between life and death."

Although Lucas' long-term prognosis is good, his young life is disrupted by hospital visits.

Scans and blood tests are routine, and he has the prospect of months in the hospital with a bone marrow transplant.

"The thought of the transplant is bleak," admits Britt. “And this is a very nervous week for all of us, because tomorrow Lucas is going to have a routine MRI scan and as he approaches his fourth birthday – the age at which symptoms of ALD usually start – we all hold our breath to do the exam shows no lesions in his brain.

“We pray it's clear, but Alison will call me right away if something is seriously wrong.

"If it's good news, she'll send me a funny photo of Lucas eating vegan ice cream or causing mischief."

She is resolutely hopeful; resolutely optimistic. “I'm trying not to be a wretched, sad, old woman.

“I have to be optimistic and supportive. Nicholai and Alison are incredibly strong.

“And it's so coincidental that Lucas was screened at birth because the routine screening in California had only happened three months earlier. He's been through a lot for a little boy.

“He has had MRIs every six months since he was three months old. They're not painful, but it's troubling to him.

& # 39; The machine makes a loud noise and he's wearing earplugs and his baby iPad to distract him.

“And when blood has been drawn from him, it's terrible. He goes every three months and last week Alison said he was amazing. He just whimpered a little when the needle went in. He knows he has to do these things to keep him healthy, and he's such a strong, happy little guy. & # 39;

Britt also dated singer Rod Stewart between 1975 and 1977, but the couple never married

Britt also dated singer Rod Stewart between 1975 and 1977, but the couple never married

Swedish-born Britt, who has been hailed for her films – including The Wicker Man and Get Carter – was first married to comedian actor Peter Sellers, with whom she has a daughter, Victoria, 55.

Then came her relationship with Lou Adler, which gave birth to son Nicholai.

Her youngest son, Thomas Jefferson (TJ) 32, was born in her second marriage to Stray Cats' drummer Slim Jim Phantom – 19 years her junior – which ended in 1992.

Since then she has lived alone; either in London or LA, or in her sprawling home in rural Sweden (where she is now), though she still has many male admirers.

Britt is thrilled – in her matter-of-fact, unsentimental way – to be a grandma. Cash and Lucas call her Farmy (their filial corruption of the Swedish farmer, which means the father's mother).

"I've waited the longest time to get farmy!" She cries. “I'm not a conventional cookie grandma, but I am inventive. Being an actress helps with storytelling.

“When Cash came along seven years ago, I was lucky enough to work in LA and I could be the kind of grandma who spent days with him.

Her youngest son, Thomas Jefferson (TJ) 32, was born in her second marriage to Stray Cats' drummer Slim Jim Phantom - 19 years her junior - which ended in 1992

Her youngest son, Thomas Jefferson (TJ) 32, was born in her second marriage to Stray Cats' drummer Slim Jim Phantom – 19 years her junior – which ended in 1992

If his parents needed a break, I would go over at 8 a.m. and stay all day.

I fed him breast milk that Alison had expressed. I had my last child – TJ – when I was 46 and the childcare hadn't changed much.

“My son and daughter-in-law wanted me (along with Ex Lou and his wife Page and Alison's mother and father) to go to grandparent classes. Very American! Very amusing!

“They were very interested in diapers and we had a dummy baby to practice with. Then they told us to carry the baby under our arms like an American football. We all looked at each other and thought, & # 39; Hmmm. & # 39;

& # 39; It was very fun, but no, I didn't have money like an American football. And diaper is awful. Cash went insane.

It took away all of its movements. But I'm a grandma who gets dirty with the kids.

And I'm very happy because I can go down and get up again because I am very flexible! I've been doing Pilates all my life and it keeps me fit. & # 39;

When Lockdown took place in the UK, Britt toured in the comedy thriller The Cat And The Canary.

She holed up in London, but after seven weeks, when the first flights started again, she took a plane – the only one that was vaguely heading in the right direction – via Finland to Sweden.

Sweden refused to be locked down during the pandemic, but Britt was conscientious.

She says, “I don't go out unless I have to. I haven't even eaten out during the pandemic – and when I go to the shops in my village, I'm the only one wearing a mask. I never take it off! & # 39;

She runs around her house with her rescue dog, Bowie, and trots by her side. Britt reveals that Bowie helped her with the depression that has temporarily plagued her since the coronavirus hit the world.

"Lockdown was an emotionally difficult time for me," she says. Aside from worrying about Lucas, there was her job.

“Everything was taken away from me overnight, so there would be depression from time to time. You don't want to get up and brush your teeth; to get dressed.

“I can go two days without a shower (although I put on fresh underwear).

& # 39; I'm Swede. We always have depression! & # 39; She adds. “But it's not fun to be around people who are depressed, so deal with it.

& # 39; Bowie helps. She keeps me on an even keel. You have to get up, go with her; Make sure she is doing her business. It all helps. & # 39;

She missed seeing the grandchildren. Nicholai, Alison and the boys were supposed to stay at their home in Sweden for the summer and then meet them in Blackpool during their tour of the play.

It conjures up an unsuitably homely picture: Britt, two little grandchildren, a bucket and a spade and maybe a donkey ride along the sand. But of course the coronavirus paid for it.

The last time I saw the grandchildren in person it was Thanksgiving last December, ”she says.

“We had a little Christmas party in LA before I went to London to play the piece. Now let's do what everyone else has to do. Zoom calls and FaceTime. Every other day. I'm trying to make it interesting.

Nicholai, Alison and the boys were supposed to stay at their home in Sweden for the summer, but the coronavirus pandemic ruined plans. Pictured: Britt with Nicholai when he was only seven months old

Nicholai, Alison and the boys were supposed to stay at their home in Sweden for the summer, but the coronavirus pandemic ruined plans. Pictured: Britt with Nicholai when he was only seven months old

“I'll take you on a virtual tour of my property. I show them that everything is here as they remembered.

I drive around with my tractor and show them the apple and cherry trees.

“I miss being with them. Grandchildren are more fun than your own children because you don't have full-time responsibilities. & # 39;

I'm distracted by the idea that Britt, the apotheosis of glamor, has spent most of the Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun in a Bikini and is now chugging through her orchards on her tractor and being a loner.

She clearly loves looking after her two little grandchildren & # 39; Farmy & # 39; to be. It could be her most fulfilling role yet.

Jeans for Genes week will take place from September 14th to 20th.

This year's T-shirt, modeled by Britt, shows Bugs Bunny. To get involved or buy a t-shirt, go to Jeansforgenesday.org.

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