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Emmerdale star Michelle Hardwick: Vanessa’s cancer storyline was always 'on the cards'

Emmerdale Vanessa looking worried

Emmerdale star Michelle Hardwick talks exclusively about her character's latest storyline...

Emmerdale actress Michelle Hardwick has revealed that her character Vanessa Woodfield’s cancer storyline has been in the offing for a long time, and that show boss Jane Hudson came up with the idea around two years ago.

But the 44 year old star says that it took some time to decide which type of cancer the vet would succumb to, and she only learnt six months ago that Vanessa would be diagnosed with cancer of the bowel.

Charity. Vanessa and Tracy in Emmerdale ITV

Tracey discovered Vanessa's cancer diagnosis earlier this week (Picture: ITV)

Speaking exclusively to, Michelle tells us: "When Jane Hudson first came to Emmerdale as executive producer, we had meetings and she called me up and said, ‘I want to give Vanessa cancer. I don't know what type yet; it's something to be discussed at conference.’

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"So I always knew that this was on the cards at some point, but I didn't know what sort of cancer it would be. Straight away, you go ‘Oh, it would be breast cancer, or ovarian cancer. Terrible, still, but the obvious ones.

"That was about 18 months, two years ago. Then I had a meeting with her about six months ago, and that's when she said, ‘It's going to be bowel cancer.’ It took me by surprise, and I thought, ‘Oh, wow!’ but it's for all the good reasons.

Charity. Vanessa and Tracy in Emmerdale ITV

Charity and Tracy are both helping Vanessa through her ordeal (Picture: ITV)

"We do need to show that this can happen to a relatively younger person. And it does, because a lot of the messages I've had on social media from people who are going through it are from younger people, both men and women, who are saying, ‘We're so glad that we're moving away from thinking it's an old man's disease.’"

It was revealed last month that Vanessa had the illness when the diagnosis was relayed to viewers by Pierce Harris (Jonathan Wrather).

The former lawyer, who was holding Vanessa hostage at Mulbery Cottage, rifled through her bag and found a letter from the hospital.

Emmerdale Pierce Vanessa

Vanessa learnt of her diagnosis from captor Pierce Harris (Picture: ITV)

Vanessa was later forced to share her news with Charity when she was freed from Pierce’s clutches and her fiancé – who wrongly thought Vanessa had left her - started making plans for their future.

Adds Michelle: "We saw Vanessa describing her symptoms to Charity, and even mentioning blood in her poo, which we don't talk about. She said, 'Yeah, it's embarrassing going to your GP' , but she's done it, and so we'll see what happens along this journey now."

The soap has been working with the charity Bowel Cancer UK on the storyline, to make sure that the plot is true to life.

Vanessa tells Tracy about her last will and testament in Emmerdale

Vanessa starts her treatment next week (Picture: ITV)

Chief Executive Genevieve Edwards said, "We greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with the Emmerdale team on this important storyline. While everyone’s experience of diagnosis is different, it is vital that Vanessa’s story is as accurate as possible.

"Although bowel cancer is more common in the over 50s, it can affect people of all ages. More than 2,500 people under 50, like Vanessa, are diagnosed with the disease in the UK every year.

This storyline will help to raise awareness of bowel cancer, and we hope it encourages viewers to recognise the symptoms and visit their GP if they’re concerned."

Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV, with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursdays.