Leah Bracknell thanks fans after target for lung cancer treatment is met

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Former Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell has said that she feels "extremely blessed" and "positive" after fans raised £50,000 for the actress to undergo "cutting edge" treatment for lung cancer.

Leah, 52, who played Zoe Tate in the ITV soap for 16 years until 2005, was only diagnosed five weeks ago.

A donations page hit its £50,000 target just days after she and her partner launched an appeal on the website gofundme.com.

Leah Bracknell (William Conran/PA)

Leah said in a statement: "I really did not expect or feel deserving of such interest and kindness. And, I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all the donations, the messages of encouragement, and for sharing the campaign.

"I feel extremely blessed. We did not expect to raise anywhere near that amount, and certainly not in such a short space of time."

She added: "Having reached my initial target means I will be able to have the first stage of the treatment. Depending on how I respond will determine the way forward and therefore we shall be continuing with the fundraising campaign. We pledge that any surplus donations will be given to other campaigns/charities to help those facing the same struggle.

"Right now, I feel strong, positive and (am) looking forward to the future."

Leah and her partner Jez Hughes set up the campaign to send her for treatment in Germany.

The mother-of-two, whose real name is Alison and is known to her family as Ali, has been working as a yoga instructor in recent years but is well known for her Emmerdale storylines.

She wrote about the devastating news on the donations page.

Her partner said the couple want to try "cutting edge treatments" at a clinic in Germany, which "aren't yet available on the NHS outside of clinical trials and are very expensive".

Claire King in 2014

Claire King, who had known of the diagnosis for a month and starred with Leah in Emmerdale, told the Daily Mirror the diagnosis broke her heart.

"When I heard I was completely floored, I was in shock. Leah is beautiful, radiant, sweet and kind - everyone falls in love with her. To have this happen to someone like her is heartbreaking, horrible," she said.