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Wendy Williams thanks fans for ‘overwhelming’ response to dementia diagnosis

NEW YORK (AP) — Former talk show host Wendy Williams is thanking well-wishers for their response to the revelation she has been diagnosed with dementia and ahead of the airing of Lifetime documentary about her struggles.

“I want to say I have immense gratitude for the love and kind words I have received after sharing my diagnosis of Aphasia and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). Let me say, wow! Your response has been overwhelming,” Williams said in a statement released to The Associated Press through a representative for her care team. “The messages shared with me have touched me, reminding me of the power of unity and the need for compassion.”

Williams’ statement came a day after her team revealed the 59-year-old has been diagnosed with with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

It also came hours after a New York judge ruled that Lifetime’s “Where is Wendy Williams?” documentary will air this weekend as scheduled. The order signed by an appellate judge, who was reviewing a petition to block the documentary’s release, says such a ruling would be an “impermissible prior restraint on speech that violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

The ruling clears Lifetime’s two-night broadcast plan for “Where is Wendy Williams?,” which includes footage of the former talk show host and interviews.

An attorney for Williams’ guardian did not immediately return an email seeking comment Friday.

“Lifetime appeared in court today, and the documentary ‘Where is Wendy Williams?’ will air this weekend as planned,” the network said in a statement.

“I continue to need personal space and peace to thrive,” Williams said in her statement Friday. “Please just know that your positivity and encouragement are deeply appreciated.”

She credited the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration for its support and efforts to educate the public about the disease, which is the same form of dementia Bruce Willis has, after her diagnosis was announced.

Frontotemporal dementia is a rare disease that affects parts of the brain controlling behavior and language. These parts of the brain shrink as the disease gets worse. The disease often includes primary progressive aphasia, which means it’s causing problems with language skills. A person with this type of FTD may have trouble finding words or understanding speech.

Williams’ self-titled daytime talk show ended in 2022 because of her health issues. Sherri Shepherd, who filled in for Williams as a guest host, received her own show.

Williams said in 2018 that she had been diagnosed years before with Graves’ disease, which leads to the overproduction of thyroid hormones and can cause wide-ranging symptoms that can affect overall health. Thursday’s statement from Williams’ care team said Williams’ dementia diagnosis happened in 2023.

People magazine reported in a cover story on Williams this week that some family members say they don’t know where she is and cannot call her themselves, but that she can call them.

The article said the Lifetime documentary crew, which set out in 2022 to chronicle Williams’ comeback, stopped filming in April 2023 when, her manager “and jeweler” Will Selby says in footage for the film, she entered a facility to treat “cognitive issues.” Her son says in the documentary that doctors had connected her cognitive issues to alcohol use, People reported.

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