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September 17, 2014

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Celine Dion, Rene Angelil believed that his recent cancer would lead to his death

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Rene Angelil and Celine Dion arrive at the “Veronic Voices” premiere at Bally’s on Friday, June 28, 2013.

3/15/11: Celine Dion's Post-Show News Conference

Celine Dion's post-show news conference at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Richard Dunn All By Myself

Celine Dion

Until now, the story of Celine Dion’s husband Rene Angelil’s long and exhausting battle against cancer has remained almost untold.

Only last week when he relinquished full-time management of his wife’s career did it become clear that Rene had successfully fought the illness but wanted to cut back on his workload in order to enjoy more time with his family.

Rene first began his personal war on cancer in April 1998 when doctors in Dallas confirmed that the lump in his neck was malignant. He underwent surgery as Celine was booked for her Texas concert.

Reliable insiders say that’s when Celine decided she would give up her career to be by his side throughout his hoped-for recovery, although he believed that the cancer would cause his death. Rene was unable to swallow or eat for a time, and Celine, too, believed that he would die.

But after two years, the couple decided to renew their 1994 Montreal marriage vows here at a Las Vegas wedding chapel on Jan. 5, 2000. Their first son, Rene-Charles, was born a year later on Jan. 25, 2001.

Her first major run in March 2003 at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace was extended from three years until late 2007, when the “Taking Chances” world tour got underway. In October 2010, she gave birth to twin sons Nelson and Eddy and decided to return to Caesars in 2011 for a three-year deal of 70 shows per year.

Rene has told me that Celine and he would like that to now extend through 2019, and tonight she celebrates the 200th show in her current run. But earlier this year, I was told that Rene had to shuttle back and forth to cancer specialists in Los Angeles to treat the illness in his throat yet again. Celine has told friends that she went with him for more than 130 radiation treatments.

He underwent serious surgery in December, and miraculously doctors even replaced part of his tongue to assist in his ability to speak properly. The couple went to the Bahamas for rest and relaxation and to plan their future.

“The surgery was successful, and Rene has made a full recovery,” one of his business associates told me. “Celine was as strong as they come looking after him through the most difficult, painful moments. He had unimaginable strength that maintained her faith in his recovery.”

But more than ever before, Celine treasures each day they have together and that led to the decision for Rene to turn over her management to longtime friend Aldo Giampaolo that I reported here last week. It’s also the reasoning behind the couple’s decision to live full time here in an expanded estate rather than at homes in Canada and Florida, which are now for sale.

Celine, who has been constantly at Rene’s side through the ordeal, has told friends: “Life is good again, but no one knows for how long. That’s why at the start of every single day, I tell him that I love him. He is still my best friend, and I trust my life to him.”

Tonight as always, Rene will be content on the sidelines watching his wife celebrate her 200th performance for another sold-out crowd of fans and supporters unaware of the illness he’s now overcome a second time this year.

We congratulate Celine on the 200th show of her second residency and wish Rene a full, total recovery and good health from now onward.

Meantime, Richard Dunn’s McCarran Airport video of his version of Celine’s “All By Myself” has amassed more than 1 million views, and Celine’s response with her own video on YouTube to him has surpassed 250,000 views.

I learned that Celine’s team reached out to him with an invitation to attend tonight’s celebration, but it looks as if Richard will accept one of her Fourth of July weekend shows. We’ll have more details about that unexpected “duet” here at Vegas DeLuxe on Wednesday.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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