Emmerdale kicks off a major new storyline for Brenda Walker in the coming weeks as she is diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Life seems to be looking up for Brenda early next week as she finally gets together with Bob Hope (Tony Audenshaw), but her happiness turns to fear when she starts to experience strange symptoms.
When Brenda is admitted to hospital after zoning out and suffering a seizure, the doctors warn that the situation could be serious. In early March, Brenda's worst fears are realised as tests confirm that she has a tumour…
Here, Lesley Dunlop - who plays Brenda - reveals more details of her emotional new plot.
How do Brenda and Bob first get together?
"Brenda is being a bit more gregarious and fun lately, so Bob suddenly realises that he likes her. He's been looking for someone and she's been there all along, as they work together at the café. Things progress from there, especially as Brenda's behaviour is very different to how it was before. Bob falls in love with her."
How long has Brenda liked Bob for?
"Well, her relationship with Terry was wonderful and she loved him, but she did have a crush on Bob when she first arrived in the village. However, when Gennie and Bob had a one-night stand, Brenda was absolutely furious about that and she has never thought of him in that way ever again.
"That romantic feeling has gone, until Bob starts showing her a bit more affection in the episodes coming up. It all happens very quickly!"
Things start to go wrong for Brenda next week when she is babysitting baby Molly for Gennie. What can you tell us about that?
"It starts off alright and everything's going well. Brenda is even being nice to Georgia. The two of them are swapping babysitting shifts, but suddenly everything goes black and Brenda just zones out. She has tea in her hand and it spills into Molly's cot.
"Georgia goes bananas. The tea doesn't actually scald the baby, but Georgia is furious and Gennie is too. This terrifies Brenda, and after that, she's very anxious about babysitting again."
How worried is Brenda about her health after that?
"She puts it down to menopause at first - that's what she thinks it is. But then she reads a medical dictionary and starts putting symptoms together. That's when she feels there's something more seriously wrong than menopause. She looks it up and sees that she could have a brain tumour.
"That's why Brenda is worried about babysitting Molly again - she's concerned that something like the tea incident will happen again. That's terrifying."
Later in the week, Brenda has a car accident, doesn't she?
"She does - it happens when she takes Molly swimming. Brenda doesn't want to because she's still worried, so she quite meekly tries to get out of it. But she can't think of a good excuse, and she doesn't want to reveal how poorly she might be, so she has to go ahead with it.
"Brenda zones out while she's driving in the village and hits the wall of the B&B. She has no recollection afterwards of what happened. Gennie is absolutely furious and says, 'If you've hurt my baby, I'll never forgive you' and takes the baby off to the hospital."
What happens next?
"Bob takes Brenda into the café and they're talking about what happened. Val was close to getting hurt in the accident, so she accuses Brenda of deliberately driving the car at her! She accuses Brenda of trying to kill her, and it sends Brenda over the edge.
"Brenda then has a seizure and starts fitting on the floor. Everyone thinks that Brenda has been drinking, because she has been known to like a tipple.
"When Brenda was behaving strangely at the Bronte night and kissing Dan recently, this is all part of the symptoms of the tumour, but people don't know that and they think she's drinking too much."
Brenda then gets taken to hospital…
"She does, but she still hopes it's the menopause. Brenda thinks she's going to be in for a quick check and then leave again, but the doctors say, 'No, there's more to this' and they want to do a biopsy. This sends Brenda into a complete panic. Gennie and Nikhil are there with the baby after the accident, and they're very concerned for Brenda."
How do things go from there?
"Brenda stays in hospital overnight, but the next day she runs away and goes back to the village. Nobody can find her, but Nikhil sees her in the village coming out of a taxi. He confronts her and he basically threatens her, because she's said, 'Please don't tell Bob any of this'.
"Brenda's relationship with Bob is so new, and she doesn't want him to know because he's only recently started liking her. She thinks his attraction to her is only because of the recent change in her behaviour, which is possibly to do with what's in her head. She swears Nikhil and Gennie to secrecy against their wishes. But Nikhil warns her, 'If you don't go back to the hospital, I'll tell Bob'."
Brenda eventually gets confirmation that she does have a brain tumour. How does she cope?
"She's terrified, but she still doesn't want Bob to know about any of it. To a degree, it's because she's in denial. But it's also because Bob and the children have already lost Viv. The babies have already lost one mother, and she doesn't want to put them through that again. She also fears that Bob won't love her if she goes back to being boring old dopey Brenda.
"I think Brenda's main reason for keeping quiet is not to hurt Bob and his family, which is really hard because she's fallen completely and madly in love with him. It's where she feels she should be, but then it goes pear-shaped. She does at one point try to tell Bob, but you'll have to wait and see how that goes."
How did you react when you first heard about this storyline?
"Well, the first thing I asked was, 'Does she die?' I wanted to know if I'd be in a job or not!
"Like Brenda, I was a bit scared. It's such a huge undertaking and responsibility, so it has to be right. I think it's wrong to touch on anything like this if you're not actually going to be truthful, for the sake of people who've gone through this in real life. The story has to be real and believable."
Have you done any research?
"Yes, I've done quite a bit. I had to, as I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know how common it is. For the seizure scene, I just typed in, 'Video of people having a seizure'. I didn't know if anybody would have recorded that on video, but there's loads. That was really upsetting to watch, but essential. I had to know what seizures looked like and what happened in order to do that properly.
"I still don't know if I've done it right, but it was particularly difficult, I think. At least I now know what to do with somebody, or indeed myself, if they zone out.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to have been given this storyline. It's brilliant and I couldn't have wished for anything better to get my creative teeth into."
How does the story progress in the longer term?
"I'm not sure whether the chemo and radiotherapy will make Brenda's hair fall out. I'm yet to hear whether I'll have my head shaved or not.
"Brenda also has big decisions to make with her life and what's going to happen next. Everything is on hold if she has the operation, as she is offered an operation. She's having a dilemma about whether to have the op, and at the moment Brenda doesn't want to have it. We'll have to see what happens, but there's some very emotional times ahead for Brenda."
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