Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The 52-year-old, who played Zoe Tate in the ITV soap, discovered she had the disease after struggling to walk up a flight of stairs. She was rushed to hospital several days later where she had emergency surgery to remove fluid from her chest, and was later told she had inoperable cancer.
Along with her partner Jez Hughes, Leah has now set up a fundraising page to enable her to undergo potentially life-saving treatment in Germany. Family, friends and fans have so far pledged almost £18,000 of a £50,000 target.
Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer
In her fundraising appeal, Leah wrote: "Just over 5 weeks ago, I was feeling perfectly well, fit and healthy. Teaching yoga classes and workshops, it was a time of new beginnings: preparing to move house, youngest child fleeing the nest, and excited to be starting rehearsals for a comedy play, being back onstage, going on tour. But, it turns out that the universe had other plans. Life was about to be unexpectedly turned on its head.
"I began to feel breathless climbing stairs ... I just put it down to a bit of stress. My abdomen suddenly ballooned - and within a matter of a few days I looked heavily pregnant. I could barely walk or breathe. Then, one Saturday night at the beginning of September I ended up in A&E."
The actress said that she had had an emergency procedure to remove excess fluid from around her heart.
Her partner Jez Hughes has set up a fundraising page to help undergo treatment in Germany
She went on: "However, the bad news is that I have been diagnosed with lung cancer, stage 4. In their opinion, that means it's terminal, not curable, not operable.
"A fairly brutal and bleak diagnosis but one I am determined to challenge and see from the perspective of 'a glass half full', going against a lifetime of pessimism, negativity and fear!!!!
"By the way, please imagine me writing this and speaking in quite an upbeat and cheerful voice. Do NOT imagine me sitting here writing through a veil of tears. I am not. Or feeling sorry for myself. I am not (yet)."
Leah played Zoe Tate on the soap between 1989 and 2005
She wrote: "My priority is getting well and strong, so that I can continue to endeavour to be a good, mother, daughter, wife, or at least the best I can be.
"My priority is to defy expectation. My priority is to love, to laugh, and, as Bob (Dylan) said, to 'keep on keepin' on'."
Leah's partner Jez explained more about what the donations are for. "To many she is known as Leah Bracknell, and has enjoyed a 30 year career on TV and stage, and is best remembered for portraying Zoe Tate in Emmerdale for sixteen years. To others she is a yoga teacher who has inspired thousands.
"To us, she is Ali, wonderful mother of two, loving partner and daughter. We desperately hope that we , her friends and loved ones, can raise the funds she needs for a potentially life saving treatment. Time is of the essence.
The actress has enjoyed a 30 year career on the stage and screen
"Having done a lot of research, we have found there are incredible breakthroughs being made in the field of immunotherapy and integrative medicine, which are seeing previously 'incurable' cancers going into complete remission.
"A clinic in Germany called the Hallwang clinic is leading the way in this. The downside is that these cutting edge treatments aren't yet available on the NHS outside of clinical trials and are very expensive.
"Due to difficult personal circumstances, Ali/Leah has been unable to work in her chosen profession of acting for a number of years which has seen a big drain on her resources. Understandably, she is unable to continue acting or teaching right now. This is why we are fundraising here."
Describing Leah, who he refers to as Ali, Jez added: "She really is a radiant jewel and shines such a bright light in the world. We want that light to shine as strong and long as possible."