Coronation Street: Why Sinead’s Cervical Cancer Story Matters For Survivors Like Me

Watching Sinead Tinker die at just 25 will be raw and difficult for me – but that’s exactly why we should all watch, writes Emily Doyle.

When I first heard Coronation Street were running a cervical cancer storyline, I didn’t want to watch. It was all too raw, too soon, too difficult – just like Sinead Tinker, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in my early 20s.

My diagnosis was the shock of my life – unlike her, I had no symptoms whatsoever. Sinead was diagnosed with cervical cancer after having some unusual bleeding during her pregnancy. She is offered an impossible choice: delay treatment and continue with her pregnancy, or end the pregnancy to start chemotherapy.

Sinead chooses to keep her baby, knowing that by doing so her cancer would become much more advanced. Discovering a lump in her neck on her wedding day last month signalling a recurrence. This week will be her final one on the soap.

Given Sinead’s cancer is a recurrence, it’s doubly scary and hard to watch as someone who has gone through it – yet another layer of worry. So it probably won’t surprise you that as a young mum and a wife, just like Sinead, I didn’t feel like I could watch. Sinead is just 25 – I was diagnosed at 24 when I went to my first cervical screening in November 2017.

Three days later, I had two letters through the door from the NHS. I suffer with health anxiety and so this sent me into a panic. The first letter told me that my result was abnormal, the second that I had an appointment at hospital for a colposcopy. I broke down.

“All I kept thinking was that I had two small children at home, and that I was going to be leaving them without a mum. Why me?”

I began researching cervical cancer and learned getting it at the age of just 24 was extremely rare, which helped to calm me down. I felt okay by the time my hospital appointment came around – the doctor said she could see a small area of abnormal cells which she was able to remove there and then. It all went off for testing and I went off home, putting it to the bottom of the pile – with Christmas approaching, life just took my mind off it.

Then, one day, I woke up to a missed call. Searching the internet for the number and seeing that it was the NHS appointment line threw me, once again, into a panic. I was passed from a receptionist to my GP to the hospital in a whirlwind and a daze, finally learning that I had cervical cancer.

How could this be happening? All I kept thinking was that I had two small children at home, and that I was going to be leaving them without a mum. Why me? Even though it was caught early, was contained within my cervix and it was treatable, this was a small breath of relief among the worst news I had ever received.

My treatment was going to be a hysterectomy. The operation itself is fairly straightforward but the implications can be massive for a young family. However, the most important thing for me was being there for my boy and girl that I already had and I had to focus on them. Thankfully, it all went as planned and when the results came back, there was no evidence of cancer.

Like Sinead, both the best and hardest part of my cancer was having my children throughout it. They were only four and two years old at the time – much too young to know what was going on, they just knew that mummy had a poorly tummy. They were all I thought about. But, as I waited for my operation, they were an amazing distraction and took my mind off what would happen next.

Emily, with her partner and two children
Emily, with her partner and two children
HuffPost UK

I heard Katie McGlynn, who plays Sinead, discussing the storyline in interviews and one line in particular really stuck with me: that Sinead’s story shows us “life isn’t a fairytale”. I can’t say how much this resonated, as someone who has been through the same as Sinead. There are young people out there suffering from and dealing with cancer every single day, and it matters that we tell stories like theirs. Like mine.

It’s upsetting, of course, but that’s exactly why I’m so pleased to see Coronation Street confronting this issue head on – not just raising awareness of smear tests, but shining a light on the fact that cervical cancer can happen to you at any age and the consequences can be devastating. It brilliantly challenges the myth that it’s only something which happens when you’re older, and even the idea you have to be at the age for a smear test before it could happen to you.

It’s for those reasons that, in the end, I decided that I will watch the episodes, and see how Sinead’s story ends. I want to see how realistic it will be, and see how Sinead deals with what’s happening to her and her family, to see how it all comes across to Corrie’s millions of viewers. It’s something so personal to me being played out on a national platform – so I have to watch it, however difficult.

“The fact is, the test takes less than a minute and it could well save your life”

With the number of women attending screenings lower than ever, it can make such a difference when major TV shows make a stand on issues like this. It will be a hard watch – I know that more than anyone – but I promise you are not alone in your feelings.

It must be said attending a smear test is sometimes easier said than done. I was hesitant too, had no idea what to expect and influenced by different stories about people’s difficult experiences. But the fact is, the test takes less than a minute and it could well save your life.

If I had never gone, where might I be? I could have ended up like Sinead, but I feel thankful that I get to watch it from the sofa.

Emily Doyle is 26 and a mum of two from Stoke-on-Trent. She works in a nursery and is also studying hairdressing.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity. It offers support to anyone affected by cervical cancer, including those diagnosed and their loved ones. If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this article or in the Coronation Street storyline, the charity can offer support and accurate information. The national Helpline is 0808 802 8000.

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on


What's Hot