ACTRESS Julie Hesmondhalgh is preparing to leave Coronation Street as her character is given the devastating news she has pancreatic cancer next week.

Hayley Cropper’s illness is part of a planned departure for Julie, bringing her 15 years in the soap to a close.

Julie, who is originally from Accrington, said the exit was upsetting for her.

She said: “I do remember reading the scripts for the first time and being inconsolable.

“Every single page, I was heartbroken because it’s a really strange thing.

“She's not me, but she's a massive part of me. She’s been a huge part of my life for over 15 years.”

Hayley was the first transgender character in the soap and Julie now feels honoured to be involved in another important storyline.

She said: “I do feel really honoured to be given the opportunity to play this storyline because cancer in general is something that affects everybody."

The episode will air on Monday.