Coronation Street is one of the UK’s most popular soap operas. The show’s relateable characters and ever-evolving script have drawn viewers for around three decades and counting.
A key storyline, which ran for months, centred around a character called Sinead. Sinead was 20. Pregnant. And had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
The young mother was terrified. She also faced the impossible decision of the baby’s health versus her own.
Sinead chose to delay treatment for the sake of the baby’s survival. Her son was born healthily, albeit prematurely and Sinead went on to receive chemotherapy.
Several gruelling weeks in, it was clear that the treatment wasn’t working. Desperate for answers, Sinead made another courageous decision. She abandoned chemo and experimented with holistic alternatives for a while. It didn’t pay off. With her spirits in tatters and after months of treatments, Sinead returned once more to the gut-wrenching chemo.
Having cancer is like being in a club except you’re forced to join. The members are all slowly and painfully invaded by diseases that might kill them and you’re not allowed to leave unless by some random fluke, you’re let out.
Sinead got some luck. She was given the all clear or more accurately “NAD”, meaning “No Active Disease”. This is what cancer club members wish for with all their hearts. The three words that represent their only hope. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always last.
On Sinead’s wedding day she found a swollen node in her neck. She immediately got it scanned and discovered that the cancer had spread. Irreversibly. The young bride’s months of fear and suffering had yielded nothing but a horrifying dead end. One moment she was getting married. The next, she had terminal cancer.
This tragic scenario plays out for so, so many people. I’ve participated in multiple support groups and it’s always sickeningly horrible to find out when a person becomes terminal.
Back when I was undergoing treatment, I had a friend who had initially received the same diagnosis as me. Then later, BANG. In a heartbeat she was terminal. Just like that. In no time, she was gone. I often think of her and her children.
The actress Katie McGlynn, who plays Sinead had been nothing short of exceptional, and true to life. From the moment she was in the doctors office receiving the bad news and how they depicted the way that you hear it. the first few sentences and then nothing. Just white noise. You walk out the room and you have no idea what’s just been said The show’s performers played it so well.
Sinead’s health deteriorated. Tonight, she passed away. At home. With her husband and baby.
A part of me knew I shouldn’t watch it. That I would find it difficult. But I wanted to see how close they got it. I knew they were playing it authentically. Maybe I was morbidly curious.
I watched the episode. I’ve been breaking down in tears every night this week. Since I was given the all clear, finding a lump is my biggest fear. Sometimes its all I can think about.
I’ve play over and over in my head what I would do if I received the diagnosis. The prognosis. I cry because the thought of a mother dying before her children are grown is too sad to bear. Every parent fears it but not every parent comes close to it happening. When a child may not even remember the parent, it’s another level of agony.
I genuinely thought it was going to happen. When I was diagnosed, my daughter was almost 2. I remember the crippling fear that I would die and my child would grow up not knowing me. Not remembering me.
It was a huge part of the fear. Daisy was so young. So young and in need of her mother.
The actress who plays Sinead, Katie McGlynn, played the role authentically. She’d carried out a boatload of research into the storyline. Katie and the actor who played her husband, Rob Mallard, became patrons of Mummy’s Star, a charity supporting mothers diagnosed with cancer while pregnant.
The storyline was realistic. It involved a nurse visiting Sinead at home. Possibly from Macmillan or the hospice. I thought the character Daniel (Mallard) was also spot on. “I must be the strong one”. “I must do right by my wife”. His struggles with contemplating an unplanned future. The fear. His fear for his son. Watching a doting mother record THAT video. It resonated with me.
I’ve mentally planned what I would say to my children. And to other family members.
I’m inspired by the parting actions of my grandfather on my mother’s side. Upon learning that he was terminal, he arranged flowers to be sent to his wife once a month for a year.
Like me, many other people will be affected by the Coronation Street storyline. It wasn’t sensationalised or over dramatised. This meant that as I watched it, my mind could release just some of the emotions I’d been holding onto.
If cervical cancer is caught early, it tends to be treatable. It’s usually detected by cervical screening or upon investigation of an issue such as irregular bleeding.
If you’d like further information on cervical cancer, please visit the NHS website (link).
If you’re struggling with any feelings that surfaced while watching today’s episode please reach out to me.
Alternatively, the Macmillan website is an amazing resource. They have a helpline with trained nurses and counsellors (link).
Well done to the Coronation Street team for their outstanding job of highlighting the real and true face of cancer.
Keep smiling and spread those smiles wherever you are.
Well done to the Coronation Street team for doing an outstanding job highlighting the real and true face of cancer.