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Zoe Ball says she is ‘getting stronger’ amid grief of partner’s death

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    Zoe BallImage copyright PA
    Image caption Zoe Ball took up a cycling challenge in Billy Yates’ memory

    Zoe Ball says she is “getting stronger” after the death of her partner Billy Yates, who took his own life last year.

    The BBC Radio 2 presenter has just cycled 350 miles over five days to raise awareness of mental illness.

    “I’m a tough old cookie,” she said. “My family have been through a lot.

    “There are moments when you least expect it when grief catches you. But the main thing is I’ve found people who have been through this and are doing better. They’ve found some hope.”

    She added: “That’s the biggest thing for me, that there is hope. Otherwise what are we doing this for?”

    Image copyright Victoria Dawe/Sport Relief
    Image caption Ball completed her cycling challenge on Friday

    Ball was inspired to take on the cycling challenge following the death of Yates, a cameraman, last May.

    She completed her long-distance journey on Friday, raising £500,000 for Sport Relief.

    The 47-year-old told the Radio Times she has moments “when I can’t believe any of this happened”.

    “I’m in the middle of this challenge and Billy’s gone,” she said, adding: “That never leaves you. That and the heartbreak, and the fact you couldn’t save them.

    “It’s true for Billy’s mum and dad and his sisters and friends, too. They are all in pain. Especially his male friends. The ripple effect is dangerous. It can happen again. It’s scary.”

    ‘The pain has stopped for him’

    The presenter said she knew Yates had lived with depression but “didn’t know how to help”.

    She continued: “And then I have to stop and say, ‘Everyone who loved him knew. None of us found an answer, none of us saved him’.

    “To move forward you have to accept that. Which is very difficult. But I take comfort from the fact he is no longer in pain.

    “He struggled every day and now he is at peace. The pain has stopped for him.”

    Ball’s efforts in the challenge will be shown in BBC One documentary titled Zoe’s Hardest Road Home on 21 March.

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