Former Emmerdale actor Leah Bracknell revealed she has terminal lung cancer this week, and fans of the star have raised over £50,000 for her treatment already.

Bracknell, known to friends and family as Ali, is raising funds to help pay for treatment in a specialist clinic in Germany with her partner Jez Hughes. She took to the crowd sourcing site, GoFundMe, to reveal her diagnosis and ask for help raising the money.

The ex-soap actress played Zoe Tate, a lesbian character who battled with schizophrenia. Bracknell played the character for 16 years up until 2005.

She used her role in the show to raise awareness of issues faced by the LGBT community, as well as those who suffer with mental health illness.

The star has worked as a yoga instructor since leaving her role on prime time television.

In her heartbreaking plea on GoFundMe, the star described how no more than a month ago she felt perfectly well before she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

“Just over 5 weeks ago, I was feeling perfectly well, fit and healthy. But, it turns out that the universe had other plans. Life was about to be unexpectedly turned on its head.”

“I began to feel breathless climbing stairs. I just put it down to a bit of stress. My abdomen suddenly ballooned – and within a matter of a few days I looked heavily pregnant. I could barely walk or breathe. Then, one Saturday night at the beginning of September I ended up in A&E.”

“Following a difficult and terrifying night, I was subsequently given an emergency procedure to remove a large amount of fluid from around my heart. I was told later, without that, I would have died. So I am beyond grateful. Without it, I would not be here, enjoying the Autumn sunshine, watching the leaves change colour, settling into our new home. I would not know either quite what brilliant, generous and loving friends and family I have.”

After being examined by doctors, the actor was told that she had cancer that was considered inoperable. Now, she is looking towards getting well and strong so she can carry on with her life.

She added: “My priority is getting well and strong, so that I can continue to endeavour to be a good, mother, daughter, wife, or at least the best I can be. My priority is to defy expectation. My priority is to love, to laugh, and, as Bob Dylan said, to ‘keep on keepin’ on’.”