GENE WILDER: I'VE WON MY BATTLE WITH CANCER
FUNNYMAN Gene Wilder is proudly proclaiming he's won his grueling life-and-death battle with cancer -- and he's sharing the wonderful news with the ENQUIRER.
"A miracle was performed and I am in great health right now!" revealed the "Willy Wonka" star.
The 67-year-old comic genius, who lost his wife Gilda Radner to ovarian cancer in 1989, was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1999. He was treated with chemotherapy for the cancer of the lymph nodes, and the disease went into remission.
State-of-the-art follow-up treatment designed to prevent a recurrence has been successful, says the star of such comedy classics as "Young Frankenstein" and "The Producers."
Cancer specialist Dr. M. Steven Piver, who is not treating Wilder but is a longtime friend, confirmed to The ENQUIRER: "Gene has made a remarkable recovery!
"He valiantly sought to receive the very best care no matter how hard it was on him and he did it.
"Gene's recovery was a combination of his amazing will to get better and extraordinary medical care."
Wilder and fourth wife Karen Webb, a speech pathologist, wed in 1991.
Behind Wilder's gentle, easygoing manner and warm smile lies a story of personal heroism.
To combat the same disease that killed Jackie Onassis, the entertainer submitted to painful stem-cell treatment.
During the therapy, stem cells are collected (a type of bone marrow cell) from the patient so those vital cells won't be damaged during treatment.
The patient then receives high-dose chemotherapy and possibly whole-body radiation to destroy any cancer cells that may be lurking in the body.
The stem cells are returned to the patient in a blood transfusion -- and the patient typically must undergo regular follow-up checks for about six months.
"When Gene got out of the hospital and finished his follow-up cancer treatments early last year, it was a real struggle for him to do something as simple as walk to the mailbox in front of his house and back," revealed Brian Scott Mednick, author of the soon-to-be-published "Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad."
"The treatments really took their toll on Gene, and even he was beginning to wonder if it was something he'd be able to recover from," Mednick divulged to The ENQUIRER.
"But Gene is living proof that miracles really can happen."
Wilder is back enjoying his favorite activities -- playing tennis on the private court at his Connecticut home and working on two TV movies and a film, all in development.
"His fans will be happy to hear he's living a happy, healthy and normal life again," declared Mednick.
The frizzy-haired actor, who rarely left his home during his recovery, recently ventured out to New York City as a treat to himself.
He attended a preview performance of longtime pal Mel Brooks' smash Broadway musical version of "The Producers" -- in which Matthew Broderick plays Gene's screen role.
Wilder's appearance was low-key and he was noticeably absent from the celeb-packed opening night.
Nice guy Gene explained to The ENQUIRER:
"I didn't attend the premiere because I didn't want to take anything away from Matthew."