More than playing her part: Corrie’s Hayley Cropper takes 100,000-strong pancreatic cancer petition to Parliament

Hayley Cropper’s battle with pancreatic cancer may have ended in tragedy, but the character’s real-life star Julie Hesmondhalgh is hoping for a different outcome off-screen.

Julie will appear before Parliament debating for more funding and awareness of pancreatic cancer – after an e-petition requesting further funding into the disease received more than 100,000 signatures.

Millions of viewers watched Julie’s Corrie character, Hayley Cropper, deal with a diagnosis of the disease earlier this year.

And after playing the part, Julie became aware of pancreatic cancer’s shocking survival statistics, which at just 3% is the lowest of all 21 common cancers.

In order to actively campaign for greater research funding and awareness, Julie supported an e-petition – started by Scunthorpe’s Maggie Watts – using her high profile to gain much needed signatures and pave the way to Parliament.

The e-petition wound up being a huge success, attracting 106,399 signatures and surpassing expectations and is due for a debate on September 8.

Julie said: “My big hope at the beginning of the pancreatic cancer storyline was to help get the petition to 20,000 signatures.  

“It took a while to get those initial signatures and since then it gained significant momentum. 

“I worked with Maggie, along with many motivated people affected by pancreatic cancer and the charities Pancreatic Cancer Action and Pancreatic Cancer UK to push the petition to the 100,000 signature milestone.”

Maggie started the petition following the death of her husband Kevin, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2009 aged 48, 40 years after losing his mother to the same disease.

She said: “In the 40 years between Kevin and his mother’s death, the shockingly low survival rate of pancreatic cancer has not changed, while survival rates for many other cancers have improved significantly.

“I was motivated to start the petition so that the Government would dedicate more funds to research so that future patients will hopefully face much better prospects. 

 “I am so pleased that Julie not only backed the petition, including raising its profile on social media and national TV, but is now also attending the debate to give her personal support to all that have been involved in getting us to this point.”

While the debate – to be led by Maggie’s local MP Nic Dakin – is a huge step in the right direction for raising awareness of pancreatic cancer – which kills 23 people a day across the country – there is still much more to be done.

In its 2002 Strategic Analysis, the National Cancer Research Institute identified that pancreatic cancer is ‘underfunded given its incidence and mortality rates’.

Despite this, there has since been no significant increase in funding available.

“What the Coronation Street storyline did for pancreatic cancer awareness is phenomenal, but much more attention and funding is required,” added Julie.

“Pancreatic cancer, which only receives 1% of cancer research funding despite being the UK’s fifth deadliest cancer, desperately needs to be in the spotlight.

“The debate is not only important for raising the profile of pancreatic cancer in Parliament but the outcome will hopefully be the catalyst for change which is so desperately needed.”

The two charities, who worked with Maggie and Julie in promoting the petition, are incredibly thankful for the support and important progress these women have brought about for the victims of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer Action is a UK based charity whose mission is to change pancreatic cancer survival numbers for the better and focus on improving early detection statistics.

As it stands, upon diagnosis, most sufferers find they have untreatable terminal cancer with an average life expectancy of between three to six months and 50% of people are diagnosed as an emergency in A&E.

Their CEO and founder, Ali Stunt, is a rare survivor of the disease. She said: “We are delighted that Julie will be joining the debate and are so grateful to her for all her support with raising awareness and gaining signatures on the petition. 

“2014 has seen pancreatic cancer finally getting the attention it needs and we, pancreatic cancer survivors, patients and families affected by the disease, are eagerly anticipating a positive outcome for this historic date in Parliament.”

Pancreatic Cancer UK aims to fight the disease on all fronts, striving for a long and good life for everyone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The Chief Executive, Alex Ford, said: “We can’t thank Maggie and Julie enough, as well as the support of countless others, in bringing about this important debate.

“Whilst the debate will not lead directly to policy changes, it acts as a crucial tool in keeping the issues surrounding pancreatic cancer at the front of the Minister’s mind. It is also comes at a crucial time politically, a mere nine months ahead of the general election.”

For more information regarding pancreatic cancer and the debate visit or

Image courtesy of ODE, via YouTube, with thanks

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