Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell’s husband has spoken out about ‘becoming a widower at 46’ and being forced to ‘completely rebuild his life’.
The late actress lost her battle with stage 4 lung cancer in September 2019 at the age of just 55, three years after her diagnosis.
Posting an emotional update to his followers on Facebook, Jez Hughes, 46, said he had never imagined losing his wife at such a young age, while praising Ricky Gervais’ Netflix drama Afterlife for being ‘bitingly close to the bone’.
‘My soul mate’: Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell’s husband has spoken out about ‘becoming a widower at 46’ and being forced to ‘completely rebuild his life’ following her death
Articulating the wide range of emotions he has felt over the last months, Jez wrote: ‘A thought came to me yesterday that I’m going to have to completely rebuild my life. A bleeding obvious thought all things considered but it still surprised me with its clarity.
‘No one expects to become a widower at 46, even the word is an odd one, barely used outside of official parlance.’
Jez added that he had been watching Ricky Gervais’ Afterlife, which follows a character whose wife died of cancer as he tries to find meaning in life again.
Although Jez said he had never really enjoyed Ricky’s work before he found the show ‘bitingly close to the bone’ with moments that were ‘honest and true’.
Tragic: The late actress lost her battle with stage 4 lung cancer in October 2019 at the age of just 55, three years after her diagnosis
He wrote: ‘A theme that kept emerging in Afterlife, and in other stuff I’ve read of people with similar experiences, is ‘I have no choice’. Death has that affect, the non negotiable nature of it.
‘When you come that close to it with someone who you share your heart, your bed, your most intimate thoughts and feelings, your dreams, your life path, your memories, your secrets, your soul- you begin to understand and experience death in completely new and visceral way. It’s certainly nothing to be romanticised.’
Jez expressed how the loss and grief had made it difficult to do even simple everyday tasks.
He wrote: ‘Grief needs both big, clear and open skies- to be able to see beyond the horizon- and at the same time small skies filled with clouds and rain- to experience the lashing wind and drench you in the bitter tears of memory and loss.
Afterlife on Netflix: Ricky Gervais as provincial journalist Tony who lost his on-screen wife Lisa to cancer, with Brandy his on-screen dog
‘Which is why it is difficult to focus on filling in your tax returns or paying all the overdue parking fines. Or, even mundane conversations.
‘It’s why the grieving want the world to stand still as that famous poem expressed, just for a bit, so they can rediscover their footing, find their moorings again. I share these words to feel them as well.’
Leah previously described how she had an ‘attitude of gratitude’ during her cancer battle.
She was often vocal about her cancer treatment, sharing her experiences in a blog and through interviews.
In the months leading up to her death she wrote ‘The Cancer Rebel’s Manifesto for Life’ to ‘reject the notion of being a victim’.
Heart felt: Jez wrote a message expressing the emotions he has gone through during the months after Leah’s death. (Pt. 1)
‘Communication is healing’: He spoke of how life’s mundane to-do list became hard to deal with after losing the love of his life
In it, she said: ‘I rebel against the fear of cancer, against pity from others and myself, against being defined by cancer, and against being bullied by cancer.’
In her final interview in August, she said that she wouldn’t ‘let herself live in fear’ adding that she was ‘just going to have a good life.’
She said: ‘I don’t need to go and fulfil a bucket list, that’s not my style, I just want to do the things I want to do while I am healthy and strong.
‘I won’t let myself live in fear, I’m just going to live a good life.’
The TV star, who also had roles in A Touch of Frost, The Royal Today and DCI Banks, was diagnosed in September 2016 after rapid weight gain around her abdomen and breathlessness prompted her to seek medical help.
After she was diagnosed, fans helped her raise more than £50,000 to undergo groundbreaking treatment in Germany, which despite she later revealed had failed.
While undergoing treatment, the media personality married her long-term partner Jez in a quiet ceremony at a grade II listed Georgian building in Horsham, West Sussex.
Heartbreaking: The late actress lost her battle with stage 4 lung cancer in September 2019 at the age of just 55, three years after her diagnosis
Pioneering actress who played British soap word’s first lesbian character and later formed ‘relationship’ with the cancer that would kill her
Emotional: Leah Bracknell, 55, has written a moving ‘cancer manifesto’ after she was given a mere few months to live following her terminal lung cancer diagnosis in 2016
Leah Bracknell became synonymous with Zoe Tate, the Emmerdale character she played for almost 16 years from December 1989.
Born Alison Rosalind Bracknell on July 12 1964, the multi-talented mother-of-two was also known for her work teaching at the British School of Yoga and for creating her own line of jewellery.
Her father, television director David, first brought her acting career to the screen in The Chiffy Kids series in 1976, before she took her future into her own hands.
Only two years after studying at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and aged 25, she was cast in ITV’s Emmerdale, where she made her mark playing British soap’s first lesbian character.
She left the series in 2005 in an episode voted the Best Exit at the British Soap Awards in May 2006.
But that certainly didn’t spell the end of her acting career, appearing in Judge John Deed, Casualty 1907, Doctors and another ITV1 soap, The Royal Today.
She also turned her attention to theatre, starring in both Gaslight and Strangers On A Train.
In October 2016, aged 52, Bracknell revealed she had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
Her battle with cancer came to light when her partner launched a Go Fund Me page to raise money for her to undergo treatment overseas, due to a lack of options available on the NHS.
More than 2,500 fans joined together to raise £50,000 to help pay for cutting-edge treatment for her in Germany.
She thanked everyone involved, adding: ‘I really did not expect or feel deserving of such interest and kindness.’
Talking in February on ITV’s Loose Women she said she had a positive outlook on life and was not fearful despite being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
She said she had formed a ‘relationship’ with her cancer to try to understand it.
She revealed she had been diagnosed after rapid weight gain around her abdomen and breathlessness prompted her to seek medical help.
She told Loose Women: ‘I’ve talked before about how my response was one of absolute anger, it’s infuriating – how dare you tell me this – which is why I didn’t want someone to guesstimate what someone thought my prognosis would be.
‘It’s based on statistics that could be out of date, that could be not about my age, not about my specific sort of cancer. I don’t want to be a statistic.’
Bracknell also revealed to the TV panellists that she was taking a new medication she hoped would give her a longer life expectancy.
In August she revealed her cancer treatment has stopped working.
Writing on the appeal page on donations website Gofundme.com, her partner Jez Hughes said it appeared the drug she was using started to fail several months ago, but Bracknell’s aim is still ‘long-term remission’.
He also thanked everyone for their help, writing: ‘These treatments and private consultations aren’t cheap, so we are so very grateful for the opportunity to keep Leah strong and well in this way as we really believe it is working.’
Bracknell appeared on ITV’s Lorraine in December, where she revealed she had been the recipient of pity from some people.
She said: ‘I think I just decided, it’s still my life, but other people were writing me off quicker and even people close to me, they’d come and – I don’t mean to be unkind – but people were embarrassed, or didn’t know what to say.
‘They come in and they’re feeling very sorry and very pitiful, and actually it’s the worst – the one thing that nobody wants is pity.
‘I can’t think that anybody, anywhere wants to be pitied. It’s like all of your power has been taken away, and I’m very much about how can we hold on to our power in order to deal with hospitals, doctors, people who have qualifications – it’s intimidating.
‘How do we retain that so we still have authority over ourselves?’
She added: ‘It’s obviously part of one’s life, whether it’s cancer or another disease or chronic condition, but the point is, it’s life. It’s living.
‘Even when it’s a diagnosis like I had and they literally said there are no options, I am still alive.
‘And I’m not going to embrace anything else, full stop. I’m alive until the point I am not. And that to me is the key, not to surrender to something else.’
She said she does not wake up with a feeling of dread in the morning and that she has pushed aside her worries about the ‘minutiae of life’.
Bracknell, who announced she would be hosting a talk to help other people going through a similar experience, said she appreciates the ‘simple, little things’ in life to help her.
She explained how she likes to hold onto an ‘attitude of gratitude’ with her at all times, even if she has to ‘fake it’.