Read Gene Wilder’s Heartbreaking Essay About Wife Gilda Radner’s Death

“Willy Wonka” star’s guest column written in 1991 detailing Radner’s battle with ovarian cancer resurfaces after his own death

Gene Wilder’s final theatrical movie role came in 1991, but the end of his career on the big screen coincided with the start of another project he was passionate about: promoting cancer awareness.

No where was his passion for fighting cancer more apparent than in his 1991 guest column for People Magazine, in which he spoke openly and honestly about the death of his third wife, “Saturday Night Live” star Gilda Radner, from ovarian cancer in 1989.

In the column, which you can read here, Wilder goes into detail about the pain and suffering Radner went through before and after she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer — and how he believes her death could have been avoided.

She underwent an operation to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor from her body, followed by extensive chemotherapy. Wilder even wrote about Radner’s final days, in which she struggled to escape from a scheduled CAT scan.

“She was raving like a crazed woman,” he wrote, “She knew they would give her morphine and was afraid she’d never regain consciousness … She kept saying, ‘Get me out, get me out!’ She’d look at me and beg me, ”Help me out of here. I’ve got to get out of here.'”

After her passing, Wilder began looking more into advanced ovarian cancer and discovered ways that doctors could have reached an earlier diagnosis and possibly saved her life. He discovered a blood test known as CA 125 that had never been administered to Radner and which is designed to detect tumors regularly created by ovarian cancer. He also learned that a family history of ovarian cancer is often a warning sign. Unfortunately, it took 10 months from Radner’s first exam for doctors to diagnose her with the disease.

“For weeks after Gilda died, I was shouting at the walls. I kept thinking to myself, ‘This doesn’t make sense,'” Wilder wrote. “The fact is, Gilda didn’t have to die. But I was ignorant, Gilda was ignorant – the doctors were ignorant.

“We were all so ignorant about ovarian cancer. That’s one of the reasons I went to Congress to testify,” he continued. “I don’t like giving speeches. It makes me nervous. But I kept hearing Gilda shouting, ‘It’s too late for me. Don’t let it happen to anyone else.'”

The same year Wilder wrote the article, he helped open a new ovarian cancer detection program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, naming it in Radner’s honor. Wilder also founded Gilda’s Club, a community support network for cancer patients and their families. In 1998, Wilder went into further detail about Radner’s cancer treatment in the book “Gilda’s Disease,” which he co-wrote with oncologist Dr. Steven Piver.

Wilder’s death at age 83 was announced by his family on Monday.

According to a statement from Wilder’s nephew, Wilder died at home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease as a recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”- one of his favorite songs – played in the background.

He had all but retired from the industry at the time of his death, with his last credited on-screen role coming in a few episodes of “Will & Grace” back in 2003. He also lent his voice to an episode of “Yo Gabba Gabba” in 2015.