Leah Bracknell spoke to This Morning about the amazing response to her appeal for funds to help treat her terminal lung cancer

Former Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell says she’s ‘completely staggered’ that people have read her appeal for donations to radical lung cancer treatment.

Her partner Jez Hughes set up the crowdfunding page last week so that Leah could pay for innovative treatment for stage 4 (terminal) lung cancer in Germany. So far it has raised more than £57,000.

Leah, who played Zoe Tate in Emmerdale from 1989-2005, told This Morning: “Thank you everybody, it’s really touched us.”

She added: “We actually didn’t know it was going to go public at all… we thought, naively perhaps, that friends and family [would donate], so it’s been such a strange few days with all the news coming out.”

Despite once being a smoker, Leah confessed she was very healthy and explained the symptoms that caused her initial concern.

She said: “The lung cancer was quite a shock. I haven’t smoked for decades and decades and decades, and it came honestly came out of the blue.

“I’ve been teaching yoga for a few years full time, I’m pretty much vegetarian, I don’t drink that much… and I was reasonably fit for my age. But I literally started to feel a little bit breathless that I thought was a bit of stress or whatever… and it got worse, [looking at Phil and Holly] I couldn’t get to where you are sitting before feeling like I had climbed a mountain. And within about three days everything swelled. That all happened over four maybe five days…”

She added: “I was in hospital more for something to do with the heart, as that was a side effect, and then while I was in hospital they did find out what the diagnosis was following 10 days of tests.”

Leah explained why she and Jez were seeking treatment in Germany: “I’ve just heard a lot about it, but I think other places are doing incredible things, not just here… but you obviously have to fund privately. Within the NHS you can do certain trials if you meet the certain criteria. So I would suggest that anyone in a similar situation, you have to ask and be proactive. The NHS is fabulous.”

She added: “One doesn’t ask ‘How long have I got?’ – you don’t want to be boxed into someone else’s perception or boxed in that there are no other options… where there’s a will, there’s a way. There are loads of other options. But I do need to crack on. We are in the process, I don’t think I can afford to sit around. But you’ve got to find the information [first] and do your research.”

On her future, Leah smiled, “I’m terribly optimistic. I don’t see any other way to be. Of course I have moments where the reality hits. It’s more about what you’re leaving behind that is more difficult. We are all going to go somewhere glorious afterwards, let’s hope. But no, I remain optimistic.”

Talking about the public’s response to Jez’s appeal, Leah said: “I mean it was a long time ago that I was in Emmerdale… I’m completely staggered that people have even read about it. People only go this route when they really have to. Nobody wants to ask for money. It’s a big decision whoever you are. And I’m one of lots of people… it’s beautiful reading those messages when someone has made a donation.”

ITV’s THIS MORNING [Weekdays, 10.30am on ITV]