Vanessa Woodfield (Michelle Hardwick) has a long fight ahead in Emmerdale after learning her cancer has spread.
Doctors told the brave vet on Friday 28th February her recently diagnosed bowel cancer had progressed to stage three and has spread into her lymph nodes. She now faces surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, followed by six months of chemotherapy.
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There were emotional scenes as Vanessa struggled to process the news upon receiving test results before telling fiancee Charity Dingle (Emma Atkins), whose struggle with the bombshell is already driving a wedge between the popular pair.
The couple’s joy at being reunited after ‘Ness was held hostage by killer Pierce Harris was short-lived as they were plunged straight into dealing with the cancer confirmation. Over the coming months, Emmerdale will explore Vanessa’s condition, and viewers will see the result of the lengthy research that has been going on behind the scenes into how to portray it truthfully.
“I’ve known about the storyline for quite a while,” Hardwick told Inside Soap. “Our producer Jane Hudson wanted to show a relatively young mum just going about her normal business, when she suddenly gets struck down.
“I’ve met people who are going through this for real, and it’s been a real eye-opener,” she shares. “We’ve had conference calls, spoken to charities including Bowel Cancer UK, and I’ve been talking to an expert called Professor Mark about the symptoms and how people react when they’re told they have cancer.
“It’s interesting as he said it’s generally those around the patient that cry more, whereas the person it’s happening to is often more stoic. That’s how I’m playing Vanessa, she’s being strong for everyone else. It’s the people around her who are breaking down.”
That’s certainly the case with Charity, who is at a loss as to how to cope and honour her girlfriend’s request they keep the news to themselves for now. She almost confided in cousin Chas Dingle but stopped herself, although it remains to be seen how long Charity can continue to keep quiet about something so huge as Vanessa faces the future.
Hardwick remains optimistic as to the message the soap hopes to get across: “Vanessa is tough and is just getting on with it. Rather than sitting around in her dressing gown waiting for it all to happen, we’ll see her getting out there and living her life. I hope I can do the storyline justice.”
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