Laila Morse: ‘You either quit or die’ – EastEnders star on life-changing health scare
James Jordan says Laila Morse looks like an oompa loompa
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Most viewers know Laila as the feisty, no nonsense character nicknamed Big Mo in the popular BBC soap. But fans will see more of the actress than they ever have before as she takes on the Strictly Full Monty challenge and strips off for cancer awareness. The star has been through a gruelling battle with cancer herself, and credits her friend for potentially saving her life after she ignored early symptoms.
Talking to Express.co.uk about her breast cancer journey Laila said: “I’ve had cancer, I had it, I had the operation, I had the lymph nodes taken out and, touch wood, I’m still here.
“It was only because of my friend making me go because I wasn’t going to bother, I found this lump, and I thought ‘Nah, I’ll be alright’.
“She said, ‘You better go because I’m gonna find out’, so I went and I said, ‘What’s that?’ and he [the doctor] said, ‘You’re going up to Guys.’
“So, I went up there, had the thing [operation], and he said, ‘Yeah come back in a few weeks,’ and it was all done and dusted in a fortnight.”
After receiving radiotherapy and being given the all clear, Laila now feels it is her responsibility to take part in the full monty. She added: “If I don’t do it, if I was dead, I wouldn’t be here today doing it.”
Soon after her own operation Laila’s sister was also diagnosed with cancer after a routine mammogram found that she had aggravated cancer.
“She’s had radiotherapy as well, now she’s having that injection for six months, thank god I didn’t have to have it because I don’t like needles!” Laila said when asked about her sister.
Thankfully the sisters both overcame cancer, but as the Strictly Full Monty programme aims to explain, many people are not so lucky.
Cancer Research UK states that there are 55,920 new cases of breast cancer each year, with 11,547 deaths from this type of cancer between 2016-2018 in the UK.
The NHS goes on to explain that the first symptom of breast cancer is normally a lump or area of thickened tissue in their breast. However, individuals should seek a medical opinion if they notice any of the following:
- A new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before
- A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- A discharge of fluid from either of your nipples
- A lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- A change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness
- A rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple
- A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast.
Thankfully with the development of successful treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, there is a 76 percent survival rate for 10 years or more.
For Laila however, cancer was not the only health scare she has had to go through. After endless days on the EastEnders set Lailia turned to smoking to curb boredom.
After a 50-year smoking habit, Laila suddenly gave it all up after she was told she was at a borderline risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
Speaking to Hello about her rash decision to chuck away her cigarettes the actress said: “I threw my cigarettes away after leaving the surgery.
“I mean, I’ve been smoking for 50 years, but it frightened me so much I just stopped. I thought to myself, you either quit or die. So I quit.”
Since giving up smoking Laila’s life has changed completely, with the star not only in better health, but saving money too.
Laila told Digital Spy: “You can taste all your food. You don’t have discolouring on your teeth. You don’t have bad breath. You are just healthy.
“When I think of all the money I wasted, I wish I had done it years and years and years ago. It’s just a habit you do because other people are smoking. I never enjoyed it. It was just a matter of having a cigarette in your hand and puffing on it.”
The NHS continues to say that certain lifestyle factors make individuals more at risk of cancer. Although there is no evidence to suggest that heavy smoking can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, being overweight and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can.
Heavy smoking can however increase the risk of developing lung cancer, with a whopping 72 percent of cases caused by the habit. This is only one disease that individuals expose themselves to by smoking. Heart disease, stroke and diabetes are other life-changing conditions that can develop from smoking.
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