Her moving portrayal of Casualty's nurse Duffys battle with dementia has touched millions, but actress Cathy Shipton may have done too good a job.
Cathy, who bows out this week after 33 years playing Lisa Duffin in Casualty, was approached at a telly event by an organiser, who assumed she really had dementia.
The 62-year-old recalls: I was at the National Television Awards last year and got split up from our group.
When was looking for my lot, one of the organisers came up and I think they thought dementia! because she said in a sympathetic voice: Are you OK? Have you lost your friends?
I felt like saying its a character! I can see my friends at the bar! so I do have to go out of my way to say to people its a character and not me!
Cathy, in the pilot episode in 1986, will still be a healer when she leaves the medical drama, but in real life.
She is a big fan of homeopathy and complimentary medicine and is such a dab hand at dishing out advice she jokingly calls herself Witchy-Poo.
She says: I had a total hip replacement and went through it with a whole series of remedies and they were astonished at my recovery. I was on stage within six weeks.
I took Arnica for internal and external bruising you take it pre and post-surgery - and I have a homeopath who prescribes. Shes also an orthodox GP.
When my mum was 89, someone fell on her and crushed her pelvis. The doctors wouldnt operate because of her age, so my homeopath suggested Arnica and Symphytum, which is actually Comfrey.
Comfrey was used in the Battle of Agincourt on broken bones. You make a poultice of it its called the bone knitter. Mum was walking within two weeks.
I remember when my daughter was a baby, her nappy rash disappeared overnight with Chamomile.
I prefer the phrase complimentary medicine, rather than alternative medicine, as it compliments orthodox medicine.
Ive had consultants tell me they have patients who wont go through surgery unless they can use complimentary medicines. One said to me: I have to say it seemed like their recovery was markedly quicker.
Cathy, also a fan of acupuncture and acupressure, is even related to a white witch.
Cathy says: My mother was one of seven children. Weve a family tree and Im related to Old Mother Shipton. People say there is something a bit Witchy Poo about me!
Old Mother Shipton, A 15th century fortune teller, lived in a cave in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.
She made potions and remedies as well as predicting the future.
Cathy laves Casualty on Saturday, two years after Duffy was diagnosed with young onset dementia.
Of the 850,000 with dementia in the UK, approximately 42,000 have young onset dementia, which affects those under age 65.
Viewers have seen Duffy forced to quit her beloved nursing job and in recent weeks her husband Charlie has struggled to cope.
Cathy says: Its a dramatic storyline, but it has been incredibly respectful to the character and to the subject, its a moving and beautiful farewell.
Although she is proud of the storyline, Cathy hopes it will not prove distressing viewing for families who have been touched by dementia.
Im at great pains to point out Duffys deterioration is quite rapid, she explains.
I dont want anyone who is dealing with dementia to assume what happens to Duffy happens to everyone.
To prepare for the storyline Cathy read last years best-selling book Somebody I Used to Know, written by Wendy Mitchell, a former NHS worker who was diagnosed with young onset dementia, aged 58.
She also spoke to the charity Dementia UK, but she turned down the offer of meeting people with the condition. I thought; its Duffys journey I cant graft on another persons life.
Over the years Cathy briefly left Casualty four times, but it pulled her back. In a way, what draws the audience back, is similar to what draws me back. Its the shows values.
Not surprisingly the role has left her with deep respect for the NHS. One of the things Ive learnt is what tremendous pressure theyre under, she says.
Duffy represents someone in a public service and thats important to me. I feel a responsibility to the nursing profession the nurses doing it for real are unsung heroes..
Cathy lives in West London with her partner, actor Christopher Guard - they met on the set of Casualty - and their student daughter Tallulah, 18. Cathy now is looking forward to new roles.
She said: I want to play a lunatic monster in Doctor Who, a homeless woman, someone in a period drama, or a character in A Discovery of Witches.
She added: When Casualty started we just did half a year, 12 episodes. The amount now seems to occupy your whole life.
In a way thats counter to being an actor, because theres part of you that just wants to face the next challenge.
Although Duffys exit is heart-breaking, Cathy loved filming it.
She explains: Her storyline became quite a dominant issue and I was challenged. The last dozen episodes was like playing a different character, because she was going through so many changes.
See the article here:
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