Leah, who played Zoe Tate on Emmerdale for sixteen years, confirmed earlier this month she had been diagnosed with stage four, advanced lung cancer.
She is hoping to seek treatment at the private Hallwang clinic in Germany, at a cost of around £50,000 and has set up a fundraising page to help pay for the costs of the treatment. She's now received well over her £50,000 target.
Leah appeared on ITV's This Morning on Wednesday (12 October) to thank those who have contributed to her cause and speak about her diagnosis.
Leah told hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby that she had been "touched" by all those who have donated on her behalf, and admitted she had not intended for news of her lung cancer to go public.
She said: "We actually didn't know it was going to go public at all, we thought naively it would be just friends and close friends [that knew]. It's been such a strange few days with all the news coming out... Thank you everybody, it's really touched us all. I genuinely, genuinely had no idea. I'm completely staggered... I'm one person going this route. People only go this route when they really have to. Nobody really wants to ask for money, for whatever reason."
Leah, a yoga instructor, revealed being told she was terminally ill had come as "quite a shock" to her, as she had regarded herself to be reasonably fit and healthy for her age.
"I've never said I haven't smoked, I have in the past, but the lung cancer is quite a shock. The criteria is usually you're older, you smoke about 30 or 40... I haven't smoked for decades and decades. It came honestly out of the blue. I've been teaching yoga for the last few years full time, I'm pretty much vegetarian, I don't drink that much, I'm reasonably fit - I thought for my age - and I started to feel literally a bit breathless and it got worse... I couldn't get up a flight of stairs.
"I was running around happy as larry, I just felt fine... It happened really quickly."
Despite doctors explaining that her cancer had progressed to stage four, Leah explained she has chosen to remain "terribly optimistic" that it can be treated.
"My response [at first] was anger," She recalled. "In a way it was good because it was gave me a, 'Right, I'm just going to get on with it.' It's still my life, it's about taking control as much as you can."
The 52-year-old revealed that after being made aware of her cancer, she chose to go out for lunch with her partner. Leah said: "I went for a very slow walk - I'm not going to lie, I had to sit down a lot, but I just thought, 'We could sit here crying and worrying, but let's just go out. It's a really nice day.'"
She instead chose to research into different treatments available, and added: "One doesn't ask, 'How long have I got?' I don't want to be boxed in... where there's a will, there's a way. I can't afford to sit around. I'm terribly optimistic, I don't see any other way to be. Of course, I have moments when reality hits. It's more about what you think you are leaving behind that is more difficult, but I remain optimistic... Glass half full."
Leah, who has two children, joined Emmerdale in 1990 and was the first actress to play a lesbian in a British soap. She left Emmerdale in 2006 and won 'Best Exit' at the British Soap Awards the same year.
To donate to Leah's page, click here.
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