News, Culture & Society

Leah Bracknell refuses to treat this Christmas as her last

Leah was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in October 2016 and faced a race against time to raise £50,000 to pay for pioneering treatment in Germany.

The award-winning actress, who played lesbian Zoe Tate in the ITV soap for 16 years, had been told by doctors that her cancer is not curable and not operable. 

An online appeal was launched to raise funds so Leah could visit the clinic that specialises in DNA-based immunotherapy and within 24 hours of her announcement fans had raised a staggering £40,000.

Donations poured in from more than 1,700 people, including a £5,000 pledge from one anonymous donor. 

Now that total is up to £62,355 and Leah has been receiving treatment she hopes will increase her life expectancy. 

Miss Bracknell, a 52-year-old mother-of-two to Lily, 25, and Maya, 21, who is believed to be a vegetarian and a non-smoker, said she felt fit and healthy just weeks before she was diagnosed.

She was about to start rehearsing for a comedy play alongside her work as a yoga teacher. 

But in a matter of days she had become breathless climbing stairs and her abdomen swelled so much that she looked heavily pregnant. 

When her heart rate rose to 180 beats per minute she was taken to hospital. There, a litre of fluid was drained from her heart and doctors diagnosed her with stage four lung cancer. 

In an emotional post online, Miss Bracknell said: ‘I was told later, without that [emergency procedure], I would have died. So I am beyond grateful. 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!’ 

Mr Hughes explained the £50,000 target would pay towards Miss Bracknell receiving potentially life-saving treatments at the Hallwang clinic.

He explained that the clinic uses ‘DNA testing to attack the specific cancer cells in your body’, and there are cases where ‘previously ‘incurable’ cancers go into complete remission’.

In his fundraising appeal he said: ‘She has responded with incredible positivity and we’re determined to fight this. 

‘After a month of researching and getting advice from professionals, we’ve found there are incredible breakthroughs being made in clinics in Europe that combine the best of integrative (alternative) medicine with the most cutting edge modern treatments such as immunotherapy.’ 

As vet and landowner Zoe Tate in Emmerdale, Miss Bracknell portrayed the first lesbian in a British soap. Her farewell from the show in 2005 won her the ‘Best Exit’ at the 2006 British Soap Awards. 

She has also appeared on TV in Judge John Deed, A Touch Of Frost, DCI Banks and daytime soap The Royal Today. She has also toured the country on stage in productions ranging from Shakespeare to pantomime. 

Miss Bracknell lived in Yorkshire for 25 years before moving to Worthing, West Sussex.