Leah Bracknell’s terminal cancer was only spotted when she was rushed into hospital for life-saving emergency, the former Emmerdale star revealed before her death.
Leah, who played Zoe Tate in the ITV soap for over 15 years, counted herself as “extremely lucky” her lung cancer was caught at all, after several doctors missed it.
Speaking ahead of her death in September, which was only confirmed today by her devastated manager, Leah pointed out that NHS staff shortages were resulting in urgent cases being missed.
“My own experience, despite contact with 4 GPs, did not pick up on the severity of the situation and meant I was rushed to hospital where a life saving operation had to be performed,” she said.
“I was extremely lucky.
“I had not shown ANY of the classic symptoms associated with lung cancer, and due to the stigma surrounding smoking and cancer I did not fit the statistical profile of someone with lung cancer.”
She added: “So medical professionals are missing the bigger picture especially as up to 15% of lung cancers are diagnosed in NON smokers, often very young.”
The actress had turned to yoga and positive thinking, in conjunction with medical treatment, in a bid to extend her life after being diagnosed in October 2016.
Her battle with cancer came to light when her partner launched a Go Fund Me page to raise money for her to undergo treatment overseas, due to a lack of options available on the NHS.
More than 2,500 fans joined together to raise £50,000 to help pay for cutting-edge treatment for her in Germany.
Leah thanked everyone involved, adding: “I really did not expect or feel deserving of such interest and kindness.”
Talking in February on ITV’s Loose Women she said she had a positive outlook on life and was not fearful despite being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
She said she had formed a “relationship” with her cancer to try to understand it.
She revealed she had been diagnosed after rapid weight gain around her abdomen and breathlessness prompted her to seek medical help.
“I’ve talked before about how my response was one of absolute anger, it’s infuriating – how dare you tell me this – which is why I didn’t want someone to guesstimate what someone thought my prognosis would be,” she told the ITV panel.
“It’s based on statistics that could be out of date, that could be not about my age, not about my specific sort of cancer. I don’t want to be a statistic.”
In a poignant statement, Leah’s management confirmed today that the soap star had died in September.
“It is with the deepest sadness that Leah Bracknell’s family confirm that Leah passed away in September, three years after her diagnosis with stage 4 lung cancer,” they wrote.
“They would like to thank all the public for their support and generosity which contributed to the extension and quality of her life over the past three years.
“Leah continued to embrace life and faced her illness with positivity. Many aspects of her journey can be found on her blog.
“Leah was best known and much loved as Zoe Tate in Emmerdale.
“She also had roles in Judge John Deed, A Touch of Frost, The Royal Today and DCI Banks to name just a few, as well as numerous appearances on stage and in pantomime.
“As well as acting, Leah was also an accomplished yoga teacher and shamanic healer.
“Leah had an energy and enthusiasm for life, a kind heart and much love to give to those around her.
“Her family have asked for privacy at this very sad time.”