FOR the past 15 years, Hayley Cropper has been a fixture in many people’s lives. The much- loved character, played by Accrington’s Julie Hesmondhalgh, was controversial when she joined Coronation Street as the soap’s first transsexual.

But since then she has won the nation’s hearts with her on-screen romance with cafe owner Roy.

Now, with actress Julie deciding to step down from the part next week, her departure is also making headlines across the country.

During her last scene, Hayley is set to commit suicide in the face of incurable cancer.

Fears have been raised that it could spark a wave of similar deaths. But programme makers have been working with the Samaritans charity to deal with the storyline ‘sensitively and appropriately’.

Cancer is a terrible disease which can destroy lives. It inspires incredible bravery as well as a quiet determination to overcome.

But tragically, there will be some who will not win their battle.

Bringing this issue to the national agenda, while also ensuring there is support and advice available for anyone emotionally affected by this storyline, will hopefully open up a debate to help those caught in this real life situation.