Coronation Street's Hayley Cropper must face the devastating news that she only has months to live, when she is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer next week.
Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, 43, announced earlier this year her plans to leave the soap at the end of 2013 after 15 years playing the ITV soap's first transsexual character. Writers decided the only way they could split up much loved couple Roy and Hayley was for her to be diagnosed with a terminal illness.
In scenes to air on Monday July 22, Hayley is called in to see her doctor after a routine medical shows up abnormalities, and given the devastating news that she has potentially fatal Stage 2 pancreatic cancer.
Julie confessed: "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."
True to form, Hayley is more worried about how husband Roy (David Neilson) will cope with the terrible news. But soap bosses have promised that there will be laughter as well as tears, as the comedy couple come to terms with the diagnosis over the course of the year.
Julie added: "I do feel really honoured to be given the opportunity to play this storyline because cancer in general 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."
ITV have worked closely with Pancreatic Cancer UK on the storyline and the charity's support line will be broadcast after the episodes when Hayley is diagnosed.
Alex Ford, chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK commented: "Pancreatic cancer does not have a very high public profile so we are very grateful to ITV for raising awareness of it through Hayley's story."