Hollyoaks ‘In Real Life’ meets cancer survivor and influencer Shell Rowe

Shell Rowe and Niamh Blackshaw

Hollyoaks: IRL (In Real Life) is a web series exploring the real-life impact generated by storylines seen in long running soap, Hollyoaks, which airs on Channel 4.

Topics covered have included depression and suicide, county lines child exploitation, disability, eating disorders and conversion therapy.

The latest episode, and the last of the current web series is about teenage cancer, and more specifically, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. TikTok star Shell Rowe opens up about her cancer diagnosis and road to recovery with actress Niamh Blackshaw, who plays Juliet Nightingale in the soap. Juliet is suffering from the same condition, and viewers have been watching her story unfold over the last few months.

Shell and Niamh discuss the importance of having a support system around during treatment. This is something  that in the soap, Juliet found hard to accept at the beginning of her cancer journey, instead opting to push away her friends and family. Shell opens up to Niamh about how valuable her girlfriend and families support has been throughout it all. “My girlfriend Hannah has been absolutely fantastic; everyone always asks me actually how I stay positive, and I always say it’s because of Hannah.”

Living with grade four cancer and having to undergo a range of treatments saw Shell in high levels of pain and in hospital receiving radiotherapy on her 21st birthday. Intent on making sure Shell still had a quality of life throughout this, and wanting to celebrate the milestone, her girlfriend, Hannah turned their garden into a fair ground.

“She was always doing things for me to make me smile or surprising me.”

Through the process along with making vlogs documenting the reality of living with cancer and going through various treatments, a TikTok, inspired by her dad, led Shell to receive over a million likes and gaining masses of views and followers, including Niamh herself prior to collecting the storyline. “It was so strange when I found out you were helping with the story, I was like I recognise that name, where do I recognise that name from? And I’d been watching your TikToks for ages.”

Wanting to give back to Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity that’s supported her through her ordeal, the growing influencer decided to use the videos to help encourage people to donate to the charity and raise awareness of the huge challenges facing young people with cancer.

Shell, who has been in remission for 10 months, emphasises the importance of shows such as Hollyoaks in highlighting hard hitting issues like teenage cancer in an authentic and honest way, “Hollyoaks got in contact with me via Teenage Cancer Trust, which has been helping to advise their scriptwriters. With their storylines they try and speak to people to be as well informed as possible, which I think is fantastic, because we need that representation on screen and it’s so important to get it right.”

“Because it’ll make a huge impact, people seeing that storyline, you know maybe people will be able to spot the symptoms earlier, it really is fantastic.”According to new research from Teenage Cancer Trust less than half of 18-24-year-olds can spot any of the main signs and symptoms of cancer in young people, and the charity are urging people to educate themselves by visiting teenagecancertrust.org/signs.

You can watch the full web episode here:

Hollyoaks airs on Channel 4 and E4.