The long running BBC soap EastEnders has recently been tackling a difficult and sensitive subject, as the character Lola Pearce undergoes brain tumour treatment. The storyline has met with a huge response from fans and current and former brain tumour patients.
The show’s scriptwriters carried out some careful research to prepare for the storyline, including working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to ensure that the portrayal was accurate and realistic.
The actress who plays Lola, Danielle Harold, talked to brain tumour patients in preparation for the role, and discovered how the condition affected their family and friends.
Now the storyline is coming to a conclusion, Danielle has taken time out of her schedule to meet Kylie Weatherby, 24, who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour when she was pregnant with twins in 2021. Kylie was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is fast growing and required immediate treatment.
Kylie underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but unfortunately, she was diagnosed with a further brain tumour last year, this time a rare stage two pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (PXA) tumour. She is currently undergoing further treatment and described watching EastEnders as an emotional experience.
She said: “When the doctor told Lola and Jay they’d found a brain tumour and that it could be cancerous, I was biting my lip. Then they started crying and I just let it out. When you’ve been through it yourself, watching someone else go through it is really emotional.”
The charity Brain Tumour Research arranged for Kylie to meet Danielle Harold and tour the EastEnders studios in Borehamwood.
Kylie said: “I’m so grateful to the charity for organising my visit to EastEnders and for introducing me to Danielle, who I hit it off with straight away. It was without a doubt one of the happiest days of my life, and such an amazing treat.”
Miss Harold said: “It was great meeting Kylie and honestly felt like we’d known each other for years.”
“I showed her around the set, introduced her to my fellow cast members, chatted to her about her journey post-diagnosis and asked if there was anything I should do with Lola because it’s so important that I reflect what’s happening to real people in the brain tumour community.”
Danielle went on to explain how many people have been in contact with her since the story began.
She said: “’It’s become quite hard for me to switch off. I’ve not really wanted to switch off, to be honest, because I’ve got to meet so many people that live with brain tumours, people that have lost loved ones to brain tumours, children that have died as well, it’s become such a huge part of my life with these people, I can’t thank them enough for sharing their stories.”
Charities and other organisations are currently campaigning to raise awareness of brain tumours, which currently receives far less research funding than most other types of cancer.
Glioblastomas are the most common type of brain tumour. They can be treated with radiation therapy by specialist consultants including Mr George Samandouras of Amethyst Radiotherapy.