Corrie icon Hayley Cropper is to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in moving scenes to be shown on Monday 22 July.
“I do feel really honoured to be given the opportunity to play this storyline because cancer in general is something that affects everybody,” says Julie Hesmondhalgh. “Hayley’s issues of being a transgender was a great opportunity to bring an unusual issue into people’s living rooms and to teach them about something that was new to many. This is a chance to go through something that has touched pretty much everybody in one way or another. It’s universal, it’s about someone you care about and it’s about how they’re just muddling through. They have their highs and lows but it’s not without its comedy. There are moments where it is heartbreaking, but it’s not all weepy. For the most part, it’s just Roy and Hayley dealing with it in a very ‘Roy and Hayley’ way.”
The actress, who has been a mainstay on the soap since 1998, added: “I do remember reading the scripts for the first time and being inconsolable. Every single page I was heartbroken because it’s a really strange thing. She’s not me, but she’s a massive part of me. She’s been a huge part of my life for over 15 years.”
With Hesmondhalgh having announced back in January that she’s leaving the show, the big question is whether Hayley’s cancer will be terminal? Throughout the rest of the year, viewers will follow the Croppers on their journey as they come to terms with the devastation that the disease causes. But show bosses are also promising a balance of light and shade as Hayley deals with the diagnosis in her own inimitable style.
Alex Ford, chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK said of the storyline: “Pancreatic cancer does not have a very high public profile so we are very grateful to ITV for raising awareness of it through Hayley’s story. At Pancreatic Cancer UK we support people affected by the disease. We understand all too well the devastating affect pancreatic cancer can have on those diagnosed, and their families. To help, we provide support and extensive information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment to anyone who needs it.”
Factory worker Hayley Cropper (formerly Patterson) was introduced by then producer Brian Park as the first transsexual character in a British soap opera. Speaking at the start of 2013, Hesmondhalgh said of her decision to leave Corrie: “I’ve had the most wonderful and happy time in the life-changing 15/16 years I’ve been in Corrie, and I owe so much to the show and the special team that make it happen.”