Emmerdale's Leah Bracknell thanks fans for cancer treatment cash

Crowdfunding campaign raises £56,000

Leah Bracknell

Former Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell has sent her heartfelt thanks to fans who have raised £56,000 to treat her lung cancer.

The 52-year-old, who played Zoe Tate in the ITV soap for 16 years, was only diagnosed five weeks ago.

"I was feeling perfectly well, fit and healthy. Teaching yoga classes and workshops, it was a time of new beginnings: preparing to move house, youngest child fleeing the nest, and excited to be starting rehearsals for a comedy play, being back onstage, going on tour," she says.

"But, it turns out that the universe had other plans. Life was about to be unexpectedly turned on its head."

After periods of extreme breathlessness she ended up in A&E and was given an emergency procedure to remove fluid from around her heart. Unfortunately, she was also diagnosed with state four lung cancer - generally regarded as incurable.

But, says partner Jez Hughes, there's a ray of hope in the form of a cutting-edge treatment available at a specialist clinic in Germany. And with Leah - whose real name is Ali - having been unable to work as an actress for some years, the couple can't afford the cost.

Now, the couple's GoFundMe page has raised £56,000, which will cover her initial visit and first round of treatment.

"I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all the donations, the messages of encouragement, and for sharing the campaign," she says in a statement.

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

The couple plan to continue with the fundraising campaign, as the chances are that Leah will need further rounds of treatment.

"We pledge that any surplus donations will be given to other campaigns/charities to help those facing the same struggle," they say.

Crowdfunding has really taken off over the last few years. The majority involves business opportunities - it now makes up 12% of new loans to small businesses and 15% of the market for seed and venture-stage equity investment.

But charitable crowdfunding now amounts to a staggering £12 million in 2015, including both donations to charities and those to individuals.

If you're considering using this method to raise cash for a loved one, the Crowdcrux site has some words of advice.

First, it says, be realistic: most campaigns raise less than £1,000.

Try to tap into any community you can, whether that be the church, your children's school or the local pub. It may make you feel uncomfortable, but be as pushy as you can.

"There is no way to get around it, says the site's Salvador Briggman. "You either need to be all-in and be willing to spread the news about your medical crowdfunding campaign, or you need to consider an alternative financing method. There isn't much room for middle ground."

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