Former Emmerdale star Claire King has told how she was “floored” by the news her co-star Leah Bracknell has stage four lung cancer.
Bracknell’s illness became public knowledge last week when her partner set up a fundraising page, which was advertised on social media, to raise £50,000 for cancer treatment in Germany.
King – who played Kim, the stepmother of Bracknell’s character Zoe Tate, in the Dales based saga between 1989-1999 – told the Mirror:
“When I heard I was completely floored, I was in shock. Leah is beautiful, radiant, sweet and kind – everyone falls in love with her. To have this happen to someone like her is heartbreaking, horrible.
“She’s vegan and a yoga guru, she’s fit and healthy-living. I can’t believe she’s been one of the unlucky ones. It’s cruel – it shows what a b**tard cancer is.”
Addressing the animosity between their counterparts she added: “A lot of people thought we didn’t get on because our characters hated each other. But off screen we clicked instantly. We became really good friends and saw each other through whatever life threw at us – she was always the one I would turn to when I had a problem.”
Meanwhile Lisa, who played Mandy Dingle in the Yorkshire Television production between 1995-2001, said on today’s (10 October) Loose Women:
“I spoke to her about two months ago and didn’t have any idea then. She knows that I’m with her. At times like this you get bombarded with stuff, but when the press dies down, obviously I will call.
“I can’t believe that about Leah. I loved working with her on Emmerdale, we had a ball. She’s a dear friend.
“She did yoga retreats, breathing, silence, everything you would aspire to as the perfect life. It just goes to show you don’t know what’s around the corner. She didn’t smoke or [drink] booze and to get this news is unbelievable.”
Lisa added in reference to Leah’s successful fundraising campaign: “It’s great though that people have listened and they’ve got the money. She is a great actress.”
Bracknell first appeared in Emmerdale back in 1989 with the arrival of new Home Farm occupants the upper-class Tate family; who were introduced to lure in more affluent viewers to the show. In addition to King, who is now in Coronation Street, the family included former Crossroads actor Norman Bowler as father Frank and Running Wild actor Peter Amory as brother Chris.
Zoe, the local vet, wooed Archie for a time before realising things weren’t right. Eventually she came out as a lesbian and had a number of romances. The character also battled mental illness notably being diagnosed with schizophrenia, fought her way out of being raped and during a spell of being far from herself became pregnant to village ‘lothario’ Scott Windsor.
She departed Home Farm for good in 2005 in what was initially reported as a nine month break for Bracknell to focus on her yoga training, something she’s made a career out of since leaving the Leeds based show.
Other roles include Jenny Carrington in ITV Yorkshire’s modern-day spin-off from 1960s medical saga The Royal in The Royal Today.
Speaking about her diagnosis on her fundraising page, which has now raised over £55,000, 52 year old Bracknell, said:
“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. Really breathless. 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.
“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, by a very handsome cardiologist from Slovakia. (Jez really can’t see it!) 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.
“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!!!!
“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.
“With all my heart and armfuls of blessings. I thank you for reading this.”