BRITISH SOAP, EMMERDALE’S CHARACTER FIRST TO SHOW DOUBLE MASTECTOMY SCARS ON TV

It was a first for a British soap when Emmerdale ’s Faith Dingle bravely revealed her double mastectomy scars on screen.

And all the more dramatic because the wounds were REAL.

They belonged to 67-year-old Brigitte Cole who played actress Sally Dexter’s body double in the shots – and the breast cancer survivor could not have been more proud to have showed off her scars to the nation.

CGI technology was used to transplant Sally’s head onto Brigitte’s body for the remarkable scenes which caused a huge reaction on social media, the Sunday People reports.
Sally Dexter, playing Faith Dingle, in the scene (Photo: ITV)

But today the two reunite in real life to talk about the historic storyline for the first time – and why it’s so important we all see the real cost of breast cancer.

Retired primary school teacher Brigitte says she agreed to do it to show you can still be beautiful and love your body WITHOUT ­going through a reconstruction.

She had her first mastectomy in 1995, and the second last year when the cancer returned

Brigitte – who carries the faulty BRCA1 cancer gene, the same as Angelina Jolie – says: “I am just happy to be alive.

“I never wanted a breast reconstruction. It would have trivialised the gravity of what ­happened to me. A breastless woman following two mastectomies – that is who I am now and I am happy with it.”

CGI technology was used to transplant Sally’s head onto Brigitte’s body (Photo: ITV)

Actress Sally, 57, who joined the soap’s first family earlier this year, says it’s inspirational to tell a story like Brigitte’s.

She says: “When I first met her I was quite nervous about it. I had no idea what she was going to be like and why she had agreed to do this amazing thing to tell her story.

“I wasn’t expecting to meet this savvy, sassy, bohemian woman. It was extraordinary and she was making me laugh a lot.

“Brigitte is a woman who has a lot of strengths but she has been through the mill. But she was amazing. At one point I thought she asked if I wanted to see a photograph of the mastectomy. “I must have misheard her, because in the next minute she whipped her top off. I was more surprised that she did that than by what I saw.

Sally Dexter with her body double Brigitte Coles (Photo: Sunday People)

“She has had low times, there is no denying that. It’s a human response to circumstances, but she is not defined by that circumstance. Hers is a story of survival and the determination to survive.

“It is such an extraordinary trial to go through. But so many people do and get through it. It is not the death sentence that it once was, and people are alerted to check themselves and get looked at and not ignore things.”

Sally also praised Emmerdale producers who approached Brigitte and asked her to take part in the emotional scenes.

“I think it is a sign of how much Emmerdale cares about their audience that they are prepared to be that honest,” says Sally.

“I certainly wanted to make sure that what we put Faith through was accurate, and the writers have done a fantastic job of that. It really does matter that the story is properly told.”

Brigitte was born in Switzerland but moved to Leeds in 1991 after meeting husband Michael through a newspaper lonely hearts ad.

But their happiness was short-lived as she was diagnosed with breast ­cancer in 1995.

 

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She was given the choice of having the lump removed or having one breast removed – so she chose to lose the breast. After surgery and chemotherapy she was declared cancer-free and tried to get on with her life, pushing any thoughts that the cancer might return to the back of her mind.

Chas hugs her mum in the show (Photo: ITV)

But last year she was given the bombshell news that she had developed cancer in her other breast – and a mastectomy was her only option. Brigitte was devastated as she had convinced herself cancer was no longer part of her life.

“I was frightened, angry, disappointed, let down,” she says. “After 21 years in remission I was convinced that I was fine, but I am a carrier of the faulty BRCA1 gene and had a higher risk of developing cancer in my other breast. After my second diagnosis, the cancer was disseminated in my breast so a mastectomy was the only option.

“My first mastectomy and chemotherapy was less traumatic than I had feared, so I was confident before the second operation.

“But the second diagnosis of breast cancer affected me much more than the first one. I am still struggling to come to terms with it.”

Emmerdale producers found Brigitte after asking a breast cancer support group in Leeds if they had any members with a similar build and body shape to actress Sally who would be willing to show their scars to the nation.

And Brigitte was more than happy to oblige.

She explains: “I wanted to help people to be less frightened about cancer, to show them there is life after breast cancer.

“I felt perfectly relaxed and found it an interesting experience. It wasn’t a big deal for me to take my clothes off – it was essential for the storyline. There was no fuss about it. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and I really enjoyed working with Sally. The cast were supportive and very respectful. “I am open about my surgery. I am even boring people with my story.

“After my first mastectomy I wrote a diary and gave it to people to read. For me, the more I know about breast cancer, the less impact it has on me.”

Brigitte’s husband Michael, 77, was fully supportive of her decision, as were her family back in Switzerland.

And her brave TV appearance has made a huge impact on Sally who rates the scenes as among her proudest ­moments in her career.

It made a big impact on viewers too as they went online to praise the hard-hitting mastectomy storyline on Twitter.

Ruth George wrote: “Brilliant Emmerdale! Highlighting breast cancer #mastectomy #survivors #Strong ­women”, and Steve Williams said: “@emmerdale is still pushing the boundaries in soapland with the Faith storyline and the continuing Ashley scenes.”

And Chrissie Clements added: “I would like to congratulate Emmerdale on the way that Faith’s story about her double mastectomy has been told.

 

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“It just goes to show Emmerdale for me will always be the best soap.”

Other fans voiced hopes that the soap would go on to highlight the BRCA1 breast cancer gene with Chas and Sarah and their fears of inheriting it.

Sally has high hopes the storyline will help breast cancer sufferers.

She says: “I think it is something that needs to be talked about and we don’t really hear that much about the aftermath of a mastectomy, somebody surviving it and thriving despite it.

“Brigitte has a story which she intends to share and feels no shame in sharing, and nor should she. I hope that is something that can give comfort and inspiration to other women and men.

“She was certainly inspiring to me – I left there feeling quite buoyed up. It made me realise this is something that, although it ain’t easy, you can get through and survive.

MIRROR


 

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