Leah Bracknell thanks fans after target for lung cancer treatment met
Former Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell has said that she feels "extremely blessed" and "positive" after fans raised £50,000 for the actress to undergo "cutting edge" treatment for lung cancer.
Bracknell, 52, who played Zoe Tate in the ITV soap for 16 years until 2005, was only diagnosed five weeks ago.
A donations page hit its £50,000 target just days after she and her partner launched an appeal on the website gofundme.com.
Bracknell said in a statement: "I really did not expect or feel deserving of such interest and kindness. And, I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all the donations, the messages of encouragement, and for sharing the campaign.
"I feel extremely blessed. We did not expect to raise anywhere near that amount, and certainly not in such a short space of time."
She added: "Having reached my initial target means I will be able to have the first stage of the treatment.
"Depending on how I respond will determine the way forward and therefore we shall be continuing with the fundraising campaign
"We pledge that any surplus donations will be given to other campaigns/charities to help those facing the same struggle.
"Right now, I feel strong, positive and (am) looking forward to the future."
Bracknell and her partner Jez Hughes set up the campaign to send her for treatment in Germany.
The mother-of-two, whose real name is Alison and is known to her family as Ali, has been working as a yoga instructor in recent years but is well-known for her Emmerdale storylines.
She wrote about the devastating news on the donation page.
"Just over five 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," she wrote.
"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."
Bracknell said that she had an emergency procedure to remove excess fluid from around her heart but was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
She wrote: "In their opinion, that means it's terminal, not curable, not operable."
She said that her priority is "getting well and strong" to be a "good mother, daughter, wife, or at least the best I can be", and that she wants to "defy expectation".
Her partner said the couple want to try "cutting edge treatments" at a clinic in Germany, which " 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," he said.
"Understandably, she is unable to continue acting or teaching right now. This is why we are fundraising here."