When EastEnders’ Shirley Carter fears for her life, she sees a whole new side to Phil. Actress Linda Henry tells us why…

Shirley’s in a panic after finding a lump. Why doesn’t she just go to the doctor?
“Because she’s in denial. She’s terrified and needs to come to terms with it herself before she can even think about telling anybody else.”

So she’s been hitting the bottle?
“It’s her way of blotting out the pain. She wants to forget all about the lump and alcohol lets her to do that. It stops her from worrying.”

Is there some history of cancer in her family?
“I don’t know. But she’s convinced the lump is cancer.”

She does end up in hospital though. How does that happen?
Phil rings her to make sure she is alright because he knows something is wrong. When she doesn’t pick up the phone he goes to her flat, barges the door open and is shocked to find her lying on the floor.”

Is she hurt or just drunk?
“She’s had a fall and her head’s bleeding. But when Phil puts his hand on her shoulder she freaks out. He realises she’s in pain and insists on calling an ambulance.”

Does she tell Phil about the lump?
“No, but she does tell him that she’s very, very scared.”

Caring Phil – that’s a new one to Shirley! Is she grateful to him?
“Yes, he really is wonderful. He takes care of her because he can see that this is more than her just being difficult. He shows her genuine kindness and she is grateful.”

What happens at the hospital?
“They check out her head and make sure there are no broken ribs or anything. During the examination she plucks up the courage to tell the doctor that she thinks there is something else wrong with her and she mentions the lump.”

What happens next?
“She gets a referral letter to go for a biopsy – but later she burns it!”

She gets home and loses the flat – how does that happen?
“Her landlord Norman shows up and says that his wife has thrown him out so he needs to move back in.”

Where does she go?
“She ends up at Garry and Minty’s. She tells them they need her onside for the wedding competition stuff.”

Is she going to deal with this lump or hide her head in the sand?
“Seeing doctors and going for tests is a terrifying prospect for her. She knows it’s what she should do but she just wants to run away.”

How do you feel about the cancer storyline?
“I think something like cancer has to be dealt with absolutely precisely as there are so many women out there suffering. It’s not something you can skim over…”