Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 09:06 UK

Coronation Street's Sally Dynevor on how soap saved her

By Neil Bowdler
Health Reporter, BBC News


'Coronation Street saved my life'

Coronation Street star Sally Dynevor has reason to be thankful. She was diagnosed and treated for cancer thanks to a storyline in the ITV soap.

It started with a script writer telling her over dinner her character was going to be diagnosed with breast cancer. She was excited at first.

"I was absolutely thrilled about it because I felt it was the best story I'd been given for 25 years. I'd had some great stories but nothing could beat this one."

Sally Dynevor says she owes the ITV soap her life
Sally Dynevor says she owes the ITV soap her life

But then, just as she was filming the first scenes, she felt a lump next to her chest bone. The cast's nurse quickly referred her to the very surgeon who had been advising the writers on the cancer storyline.

Fact and fiction

The surgeon told her he could have a diagnoses for her in a couple of hours. She said she would wait, not least because she was due to film the scene in which she would tell her onscreen husband Kevin she had cancer.

"We were filming the scenes back to back all day, there must have been 12 scenes. I thought, I really can't know because if I did have it, how would I ever go into work and do all those scenes?"

I'm so glad that story was given to me because there's absolutely no way I would have had that tiny little lump checked out.
Sally Dynevor

She doesn't remember much of the actual diagnosis. She collapsed and woke up lying on a bed. She was sure fact had become muddled with fiction.

"He must have got this wrong, I thought. Surely he's getting the character and me confused."

Her initial intention was to act on. She wanted to see how the plot would develop, and to carry on as normal. But then came the news the cancer had spread to her arm, which meant more surgery (she had already undergone a lumpectomy) and chemotherapy.

"It finally dawned on me: I've got breast cancer, I need to get well, I need to go away, I need to get on with this in my own private way. I didn't really want to share it with anybody at this point."

She disappeared from the Street quietly. While the original story line envisaged her battling for life, the writers instead bundled her off to her sister's for treatment in private.

Her real-life treatment is now over and she has already recorded her return to the Street (which is due to air in July). She says she's raring to go.

Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK with 46,000 women diagnosed in 2007
In the last 10 years, female breast cancer rates in the UK have increased by 5%
Worldwide, more than a million women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year
Source: Cancer Research UK

"I'm through it now. I'm really positive, not that I was all the time during the chemo. Obviously I lost my hair and there were times when I was very tired, but it wasn't the horrendous story I'd heard and read about in the newspapers, so I'm happy I'm through it and back to work."

But amid the desire to get on with her life on and off screen, there is a deep gratitude to the writers and cast of Britain's oldest soap.

"I'm so glad that story was given to me because there's absolutely no way I would have gone and had that tiny little lump checked out.

"I would have left it. I mean I'm busy, I've got three children, I've got a full-time job, I'm a mum and a housewife and all those things. I didn't think this would happen to me. But it has.

"Coronation Street did actually save my life."

High-profile names can help raise awareness of a disease or condition, and bring it under the spotlight. This video series talks to those in the public eye about their personal reasons for speaking out.

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