In the last two years I lost my husband and my work, then I heard I had cancer; LESLEY FITZ-SIMONS ON HER VOYAGE TO HELL AND BACK.
AS a soap star, Lesley Fitz-Simons was used to storylines about love break-ups, people losing their jobs and even heart-rending battles with deadly diseases.
But for Lesley, best known for her role as Sheila Ramsay in STV show High Road, these awful events were happening in her own, off-screen life.
And she told the Daily Mirror that, in the past two years, she has been to hell and back.
In an incredible example of life imitating art, her trials and tribulations mimicked those of the character she played for 18 years before being dumped by Scottish TV bosses.
Lesley, 40, became a household name whe she played sexy Sheila Ramsay in Take the High Road, a runaway rating success before it changed its name to High Road.
Her life seemed blissful as she enjoyed her hard-earned fame and a solid relationship with Calum Thomson, the father of her six-year-old daughter Marnie.
But the last two-and-a-half years could have come straight from the script of the couthy soap.
Put-upon Sheila, found herself left as a single mum whe she saw her husband run off with a prostitute and was forced to have an AIDS test.
Blonde Lesley has also endured a turbulent ordeal, beginning with a cervical cancer scare in 2000 and ending with a split from Calum in April.
She is now looking to pick up the pieces of her career, which suffered a serious setback when High Road was axed.
And, one day, she hopes to have a little brother or sister for Marnie, although she has not yet found a new man.
Not surprisingly, her priorities at the moment are Marnie and her own good health.
DOCTORS feared she might have cancer after discovering abnormal cells when she was undergoing routine tests for another health complaint.
She needed two painful biopsies and has only just been given the all-clear.
Lesley said: "I was in for something else but the doctors realised something was not right. I went in with one thing and came away with two things to worry about.
"It was frightening. Everything had been going absolutely fine then it came as quite a shock.
"I had a lot of going backwards and forwards to the hospital and a couple of biopsies. It was all quite horrible.
"I have been given the all-clear now, although I still have to go back for regular check-ups. But, touch wood, everything is going to be fine."
The worries over her health came as she was about to be thrown into limbo by STV, the makers of High Road.
Filming of the soap has now finished and Lesley has accepted it is unlikely to be revived.
Her career now revolves around the pantomime circuit and her next firm job is playing the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella in Glasgow - a far cry for her soap stardom.
In the meantime, she makes the most of what she calls "resting" at the country cottage where she was raised in Milton of Campsie, near Glasgow.
Lesley used to share the cosy home with Calum, a 33-year-old sales rep, and Marnie.
But her eight-year relationship with Calum ended in April.
Lesley, who also has a failed marriage behind her, claims she feels no bitterness about their split, but was reluctant to talk about what had happened.
She said: "Our relationship ended quite recently. It is unfortunate but it just came to a natural conclusion. There was nobody else involved.
"It was just one of those things and it takes a while to get back to normal."
Tellingly, she added: "Of course I can't avoid him because of Marnie. She still sees a lot of Calum and he has been taking her away during the holidays.
"There is nobody new on the horizon at the moment. But I would love to have more children."
Lesley remains philosophical about the future of High Road, which was first screened in 1977.
She joined the cast as a fresh-faced 21-year-old and has been at the centre of many of the soap's most gripping storylines.
Lesley said: "Everyone from High Road is in this kind of limbo. Deep down we know it is finished but we have not really been told.
"I am still in touch with a lot of the cast. I bump into them quite regularly.
"It is sad in a way but nothing can go on forever. Contracts are short these days and I was in High Road for 18 years."
LESLEY briefly considered auditioning for a part in the new BBC soap - River City - although she realises her long stint on High Road may have typecast her as Sheila Ramsay.
But she has ruled out a move to England, despite there being more acting jobs south of the Border.
She added: "I want to continue to make a living from acting. I thought about the new BBC soap but I am kind of typecast as Sheila.
"Maybe in a couple of years time I would consider it.
"At the moment I am resting and looking forward to the panto season, even though it is the middle of summer.
"It is difficult to get acting jobs in Scotland, as all the auditions are in London.
"But I like it round here and I would not consider moving. My parents live next door and I grew up in the house I live in now.
"Marnie is on her school holidays at the moment and we have been going on lots of day trips.
"She is a wonderful little girl - although her favourite programme is EastEnders!"
A NEW ROLE: Lesley, right, was left in limbo by the end of High Road, far right, where she was the bridesmaid at her pal's wedding but her real-life relationship with Calum Thomson, bottom, didn't last; DRAMATIC: Lesley's character Sheila had a turbulent love life
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Aug 8, 2002|
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