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I'LL BEAT CANCER FOR MY BABY; EXCLUSIVE: PAUL STEWART ON HIS BATTLE.

THE son of motor racing legend Jackie Stewart spoke for the first time yesterday of his determination to beat cancer.

As he celebrated the christening of his son, Zack, proud father Paul Stewart, 35, said: "I have everything to live for."

Paul, diagnosed with bowel cancer only two weeks ago, said his love for gorgeous wife Victoria and sons Dylan, five, Lucas, three, and new baby Zac have given him the strength to fight the killer disease.

As his close friend, British Grand Prix winner David Coulthard, cradled Zac in his arms, Paul said: "I only found out I had cancer a few weeks ago, so it is still a bit of a shock.

"I have only just started my therapy and I am sure the worst is still to come. The next few months are going to be tough but as long as I have my family beside me, I'll get through it."

Paul added: "I am keeping very positive because the way I see it is that there are a lot of people worse off than me.

"I am lucky that I have the love and support of my wife and boys. The doctors have told me my chances of beating this thing are very good and I am determined to beat it."

Paul spoke exclusively to the Record as the Stewart clan enjoyed a family reunion. A host of celebrity guests shared in his joy on one of the happiest days of his life.

Last night Victoria, who married Paul in 1993, said: "Paul's foresight to go to the doctor for a check up probably saved his life.

"He knew that he could not put it off for the sake of his children.

"It was awful for him and very degrading but he went through it for us. We are so proud of him."

She added: "If anyone can beat this thing, it's Paul. He is the bravest person I know and he is an inspiration to everyone. He is my hero.

"Paul is very single minded and when he decides to do something, nothing will get in his way. There is nothing more important to Paul than his family and spending as much time as possible with his boys."

She also paid tribute to the support given by Paul's father Jackie and his mother Helen.

Victoria said: "Paul, myself, Jackie and Helen are all determined to see this through and look forward to a future together. Doctors are hopeful that Paul will beat this because it has been caught early enough."

Former racing champ Paul is being treated for bowel cancer at the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, America.

Doctors made the diagnosis after tests on a recurring stomach problem.

Paul will start to lose his hair today - two weeks after his first session of chemotherapy.

Victoria added: "He should lose all his hair by Friday but he will still be the same person to us. It won't change him. We will probably be shocked for about two minutes and then we will just get on with it.

"I will look at him and think that it is normal. He got his hair cut really short last week so that it wouldn't be such a shock. Paul isn't really bothered about losing his hair - he has more important things to worry about.

"He has already told the boys that daddy will go bald because of his illness. It makes it easier for them when their classmates start asking questions."

Paul still has another five chemotherapy sessions to endure. And Victoria will be by his side every step of the way.

She said: "We will have to go over to America every three weeks for check-ups and chemotherapy. Each session only takes about two hours but every time we go across, we will have to spend a day and a half before flying home.

"It is going to be hard on both of us, it will be difficult being apart from the boys but we will get through it. I will all be worth it in the end."

Since announcing his illness, Paul has been flooded by letters of support and special messages from fans.

Victoria said: "The letters were extremely touching and some of the words had me in floods of tears. I have never experienced anything like it. Having so much support around him means a lot of Paul. He is very grateful for every letter he receives."

Paul, who ran the Jaguar Racing Team with his three-times world racing champion father, stepped down as chief operating officer of the team after being told of his illness.

Former Formula One champion Jackie, 60, said Paul's recovery was the "single most important thing" in the life of the Stewart family.

He added: "Fortunately Paul is in the best possible hands at the clinic. His mother Helen and I, as well as his brother Mark, and Paul's wife Victoria, have complete confidence in his doctors and we are optimistic that he can overcome this illness and carry on living life to the full."

The treatment for a malignant lymphoma is expected to take three months.

Paul was a winner in Formula Ford 2000 and in Formula 3, but he failed to emulate his father's success and he opted in 1994 to concentrate on team management. Two years later he and his father created Stewart Grand Prix.Ford bought the Stewart team for more than pounds 60million last season and rebranded it for the 2000 season as Jaguar.

Paul, who wore a formal grey suit and tartan tie, beamed with delight yesterday as his son was baptised Zac McGregor Stewart at St Mary's RC Church in Woburn Sands, Bedfordshire, near the family home.

Victoria looked stunning in a lilac jersey and matching silk skirt as she stood at the font with her two eldest sons Dylan and Lucas.

The 20-minute service was kept short and simple for the benefit of almost half the congregation which was made up of children of all ages.

Doting dad Paul clung to little Zac as Canon Stan Condon wet the baby's head and anointed his chest and brow as a mark of strength and spiritual welcoming.

His father Jackie and wife Helen were accompanied by their younger son TV producer brother Mark, 32, his wife Anne and their daughter Leona.

Also among his close friends were Formula One ace Coulthard - who was still in triumphant form after his British Grand Prix victory on Easter Sunday - and his model girlfriend Heidi Wichlinski.

Canon Condon said: "It was a lovely service, very friendly and relaxed.

"Little Zac was very well behaved. He never cried once during the baptism. His dad Paul held him throughout the service. He was obviously very proud and his mum Victoria stood at the font with their other two boys who were also very mannerly."

He added: "I spoke to David Coulthard after the service to congratulate him on his victory. He was very nice and we had a laugh and a joke together.

"There was an awful lot of children at the service but they were all well behaved and quiet. I kept the service nice and short to save the youngsters from getting bored."

Little Zac will have plenty of adoring godparents watching over him in the future - four were chosen, but only three were able to attend the service.

They included friend and neighbour Lady Stephanie Russell, wife of Lord Robin Russell, Victoria's long-standing friend Serena Fresson and racing driver Gil de Ferran.

Zac's other Godfather Patrick Planche, Paul's best friend and old school pal was detained elsewhere and sent his apologies for missing the big day.

Victoria said: "It was fantastic being surrounded by all our friends.

"Some people had suggested we put off the Christening because of Paul's illness but there was no way.

"Paul really enjoyed himself and was so proud of his children. It was good for him to be with the people he loves.

"He was really pleased to see David Coulthard. They are close friends and he has been a great help to him after finding out about the cancer."

Yesterday, Coulthard cradled little Zac - but vowed to dump his nice guy image.

A long-standing friend of the Stewart family, he said he planned to show "who was boss" on the race track while clearly being captivated by the six-month-old baby.

The Scot cut his Grand Prix winning celebrations short to make sure he attended the ceremony.

With stunning fiancee Heidi looking on as he held the infant, Coulthard, 29, fired off a stern warning to German rival Michael Schumacher.

Now second to Schumacher in the drivers table, Coulthard said: "If Michael thinks he's got the title wrapped up, he'd better think again. "

And he said of his nice guy image: "Of course there is a place for that and in many ways I'll never change. But I know I've got to get tougher on the track and not be scared to show people who is boss."

Triple world champion Jackie Stewart, the last Scot to wear the Formula One crown 27 years ago, said: "David's win was terrific.

"I've never doubted his ability and his performance at Silverstone definitely makes him one of the contenders for the championship."
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Author:Burns, Janice
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 25, 2000
Words:1548
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