Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper's world will be turned upside down next week after she gets diagnosed with potentially fatal stage two pancreatic cancer.
Viewers will see Hayley called in by her doctor for tests after a routine medical shows up abnormalities, only to be told of her serious condition.
After leaving the hospital, Hayley has the harrowing task of telling husband Roy the shocking news and worries about how he will cope.
Here, Julie Hesmondhalgh - who plays Hayley - discusses her character's devastating diagnosis.
Why does Hayley decide to go to the doctor's? Has Hayley been feeling unwell?
"She goes to the doctor's to encourage Roy to go. She has been feeling tired because Roy's been sleepwalking but she doesn't go to the doctor's with any sort of agenda regarding her own health."
So she must feel quite shocked when she gets a call back with the news that something could be wrong?
"It comes in increments really. She feels uneasy when asked to go in and get the results, but still feels positive, as she doesn't really understand what's going on at this stage. She then goes in for tests and has an ultrasound. That's when they find something and she starts to feel alarmed."
Why doesn't she tell Roy?
"She thinks it will be nothing and doesn't want him to worry. My favourite bit about the way this story has been written is that even when she finds out what she has, she's still okay about it and takes the news in a sort of sanguine way. She starts to worry when Roy is mentioned. He's just coming out of his period of sleepwalking, which has been a nightmare. She thinks, 'I can cope with this but he might not be able to'."
Tell me about your relationship with Carla. Why does their friendship work?
"They have a really interesting, unusual and brilliant friendship. Carla is everything that Hayley isn't and everything Hayley would aspire to be. Carla insists on coming to the hospital with Hayley because she's been so upset at work, this is one situation where the viewer gets to see a different side of Carla.
"There are very few residents on the street that Carla lets her guard down with, but she seems to really love Hayley. They're both women that have been through a lot, both childless and both going out with men who are problematic in their own way. I think they have a lot in common, really get on and have a mutual respect for each other. In Roy and Hayley's relationship, Hayley is the more flamboyant, physical and demonstrative one. There's a lovely scene where Carla's holding Hayley's hand and Hayley's looking really uncomfortable. Carla seems to take on the role of Hayley and Hayley seems to take on the role of Roy."
What is she told?
"It's quite stark the way she is told. The consultant tells her to sit down and he tells her, 'You have stage two pancreatic cancer'. She doesn't really understand what this means and it doesn't sink in at first. He explains she has to have a small operation to clear her bile duct, which is what is making her tired and jaundiced, and then she has to have the big operation to remove the tumour, if they can."
Is she told whether the cancer is terminal or not?
"She asks what the chances of survival are and she is told that two out of ten people who get stage two pancreatic cancer are living a healthy life five years on. This means eight out of ten don't. Hayley is a very sunny and positive person and she is very hopeful, but the prospect of telling Roy and the prospect of leaving Roy worries her."
Is Carla there when she comes out?
"No, Carla insists on coming with her to the hospital but Hayley goes in to see the consultant on her own. She bumps into Carla on her way back to work and Carla can clearly see something is wrong. She insists on going back to work and as the day goes on, Hayley just loses it. Carla comes in and rescues her and takes her into her office and it's there that she breaks down and tells Carla about the tumour."
Why do you think she is putting off telling Roy?
"Because she knows that telling him is going to be the worst part of it. And she can't imagine how she's going to do it. Sure enough when she does, he becomes an immediate nightmare, but in a brilliant way. We go straight into Roy and Hayley mode and it's wonderful because it's not all doom and gloom. He goes into full research mode and makes her have herbal tea and eat broccoli. She gets really fed up with him, but that's his way of coping. It does get quite annoying for Hayley as they are such different characters, but they do work so well together."
Is Hayley in denial?
"Hayley's not in denial at all. She has one way of dealing with things and Roy has another. From speaking to people who've been given this type of news, your initial reaction is not always what you'd imagine. You would think that you would immediately burst into tears, but a lot of people say they feel a sense of euphoria when they are told. I guess you start to think, 'I will be a survivor, I can do this'. The human spirit is an incredible thing."
How does everyone find out?
"Roy finds her drinking at a party at the Bistro. He goes mad at her because she's supposed to be looking after herself and he manages to announce to the entire assembled company what's happening to her. This is definitely not what Hayley wants. She's spent her life being looked at differently. She doesn't want pity and she doesn't want to be seen as different, she just wants to be like everyone else. Anything that sets her apart again is going to be upsetting to her. Sure enough, as soon as it happens people start talking to her about it and she starts getting sympathetic looks. It does drive her crazy, but it is a contradiction because she would want to be there for other people if they were in her situation."
How did you feel when you were told about the cancer storyline?
"It's what I expected to be honest. I knew that ultimately I would have to be written out of the show because I'm leaving and I knew that the story would have to honour Hayley and Roy's relationship. Because of the unique nature of their bond, she couldn't just up and leave.
"I did feel really honoured to be given the opportunity to play this storyline because it is something that affects everybody. 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."
What research have you done?
"People volunteered to speak to me about their experiences, but you are beholden to the writers and researchers. They did exactly what I hoped they would do. I think they got the euphoria exactly right. I'm not saying that's how it would be for everybody but I think it was spot on for how Hayley would react. The way she's coping with it by living life to the full is something I can get my head round really easily. The writers know her as well as I do and they've always written beautifully for her."
What physical changes will we see with Hayley?
"We will see her looking tired and jaundice but we haven't reached a chemo point yet and there is no discussion about shaving her head. I don't believe that Hayley would ever be seen without hair. Even on her own I think she would still wear a wig."
How do you switch off when you get home?
"You have to have a word with yourself because when you play a storyline like this it can be quite hard to shake off, but you can. To play a part well, sometimes you have to trick your body into thinking that is how you're feeling, but you then have to remind your body that you are acting. I remember one night walking up the stairs slightly stooped and I had to remind myself that I wasn't ill.
"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."
> Read more 'Coronation Street' spoilers and news
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