Fans donate £40,000 in a day to fund ex-Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell’s fight with terminal lung cancer
- Leah was a major star in the ITV Yorkshire soap between 1989-2005
- She is also known for her roles in The Royal Today and BBC's Doctors
- Her partner Jez Hughes has started a donations page to raise money
- Couple have Mexican shamans in the hospital attempting to heal her
- Leah played the first lesbian character to come out in a British soap
The Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell who played Zoe Tate has terminal cancer
More than £40,000 has been raised in 24 hours to fund pioneering cancer treatment for former Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell.
The award-winning actress has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and is in a race against time to raise £50,000.
Her partner Jez Hughes launched an online appeal on Thursday to raise cash for cutting edge immunotherapy in Germany that they hope will give her a fighting chance to beat the disease.
And by yesterday the total raised on the GoFundMe website had reached £41,100 with donations from 2,000 people, including a £5,000 pledge from one anonymous donor.
The 52-year-old actress, who played Zoe Tate in the ITV soap from 1989 to 2005, was diagnosed with the condition five weeks ago, as she prepared to return to the stage in a comedy show.
In an emotional post about her condition, the mother-of-two - the first British soap character to come out as a lesbian - described how she had been enjoying life as a 'fit and healthy' yoga teacher when her world was 'unexpectedly turned on its head'.
Writing on her fundraising page, Leah vowed to fight the cancer with 'a glass half full', describing how her priority was 'to defy expectation'.
'Please imagine me writing this and speaking in quite an upbeat and cheerful voice,' she wrote.
'Do NOT imagine me sitting here writing through a veil of tears. I am not. Or feeling sorry for myself. I am not (yet).
'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.
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Effie Harrison, played by Phillipa Peak, reveals her feelings for Zoe Tate (Leah Bracknell) in this Emmerdale scene (left); Leah also playing Zoe in the soap (right)
Leah's Emmerdale character was the first lesbian to come out in a British soap (Leah Bracknell pictured in 2004)
Leah as Zoe Tate with Charity Dingle, played by Emma Atkins, in a 2001 episode of Emmerdale
'My priority is to defy expectation. My priority is to love, to laugh, and, as Bob said, to "keep on keepin' on".'
It is hoped she will now be able to afford treatment at the private Hallwang clinic, which costs between £9,000 and £27,000 a week, with the average stay lasting three to four weeks. Patients have compared the centre to a ‘spa hotel’ where they are given restaurant-quality food.
The clinic specialises in immunotherapy, which ‘reprogrammes’ the body’s defence system to attack cancerous cells. Trials show it could stop cancer from spreading and reduce tumour size.
In Germany – which has one of the highest cancer-survival rates in Europe – clinics operate under fewer regulations so they can provide treatments that have not been ruled safe in Britain.
Fans and well-wishers have gone on Twitter to share their shock at Leah's diagnosis
Leah, who is believed to be a vegetarian, said she discovered symptoms five weeks ago after struggling to walk up a flight of stairs.
A few days later, she was rushed to hospital and had an emergency procedure to remove a litre of fluid from her chest. At the time, she was told that she would have died without medical intervention.
Doctors later diagnosed Leah with inoperable lung cancer.
She said: 'My abdomen suddenly ballooned- and within a matter of a few days I looked heavily pregnant. Then, one Saturday night at the beginning of September I ended up in A & E.
'Following a difficult and terrifying night (my heartbeat rose to 180 beats a minute!) I was subsequently given an emergency procedure to remove a large amount of fluid from around my heart.
'I was told later, without that, I would have died. So I am beyond grateful.
'Without it, I would not be here, enjoying the Autumn sunshine, watching the leaves change colour, settling into our new home. I would not know either quite what brilliant, generous and loving friends and family I have.'
Leah Bracknell at The British Soap Awards in 2006 (left) and her partner Jez Hughes (right)
Rachel Ambler as Emma Nightingale and Leah Bracknell as Zoe Tate in Emmerdale
Fans of Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell who played Zoe Tate have rallied to her support after it was announced she has terminal lung cancer (Leah in an episode of The Royal Today)
Jez said the family are 'determined to fight' the cancer and have Mexican shamans in the hospital attempting to heal her.
Writing on Facebook he said it had been an 'incredibly tough month' following the diagnosis of his 'beloved partner and soul mate'.
LEAH BRACKNELL'S TV CAREER INCLUDED LANDMARK LESBIAN ROLE
Judge John Dreed - 2007
The Royal Today - 2008
Casualty 1907 (mini series) - 2008
A Touch of Frost - 2010
Doctors - 2007-11
DCI Banks - 2011
'Luckily they were able to drain a litre of fluid from around her heart which saved her life,' he wrote.
'Unfortunately the diagnosis for the problem that caused the fluid build up was lung cancer, stage 4, what the doctors call "terminal".
Jez added that the pair had been getting advice from professionals for the past month and had found 'incredible breakthroughs' being made in European clinics involving alternative medicine and modern treatments.
Adding that the medical profession 'doesn't always know the whole story', he said that treatment at The Hallwang Clinic would give her the 'best possible chances of not only survival'.
But, asking for donations, he added: 'The downside is these treatments are expensive. So I've set up a Go Fund Me campaign for Ali to help raise money towards these potentially life saving treatments.'
Mr Hughes added that Leah has been a 'wonderful mother of two, loving partner and daughter'.
Leah Bracknell speaking at the British Soap Awards; donations have been made to her GoFundMe site
Leah Bracknell playing Zoe Tate with Joseph Tate in a 2005 episode of Emmerdale (left); Leah also starred in a Touch of Frost (right)
He said: '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.'
He added that Leah had been unable to work in recent years because of 'personal circumstances' which had been a 'big drain' on her resources.
He said: 'Understandably, she is unable to continue acting or teaching right now. This is why we are fundraising here.
Her partner Jez Hughes said Leah had also been a yoga teacher who has 'inspired thousands'. Leah pictured in an Emmerdale episode with Callum Rennie (Andrew Whipp) and Effie Harrison (Phillipa Peak)
As character Zoe Tate in Emmerdale she raised LGBT and mental health issues.
Vet Zoe suffered from schizophrenia and had a dramatic exit in the show when she blew up the farm where her family lived.
The award-winning actress also played Jenny Carrington in 43 episodes of The Royal Today in 2008.
Leah also had roles in Judge John Dreed, A Touch of Frost, Doctors and DCI Banks between 2007-2011.
Leah, has starred on television for 30 years, is pictured here playing Matron Jenny Carrington in ITV's The Royal Today
Leah played Jenny Carrington (pictured) in 43 episodes of The Royal Today in 2008
THERE ARE OFTEN NO SIGNS OF LUNG CANCER IN THE EARLY STAGES OF THE DISEASE, DOCTORS WARN
Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. Around 44,500 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.
There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but many people with the condition eventually develop symptoms including: a persistent cough; coughing up blood; persistent breathlessness; unexplained tiredness and weight loss; an ache or pain when breathing or coughing.
Lung cancer mainly affects older people. It's rare in people younger than 40, and the rates of lung cancer rise sharply with age. Lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 70-74.
Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the main cause (accounting for over 85% of cases). This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances.
Source: NHS Choices website
In recent years she has worked as a yoga teacher and released a DVD on the discipline. Her yoga website details Leah as also being a 'shamanic healer'.
Describing how she felt before her diagnosis, she 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.'
To visit the donations page, click here.
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