Ellen Pompeo thanks Grey's Anatomy fans as she prepares to bow out as show's lead

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Ellen Pompeo wrote an emotional note to Grey's Anatomy fans on Thursday ahead of her exit as a series regular.

The actress announced over the summer that she will no longer be playing Meredith Grey full-time in the medical drama, and a preview clip released last week saw Meredith saying farewell to her colleagues in Seattle before her move to Boston.

On Thursday, she thanked the show's fans for the love and support they have shown her since the series began in 2005.

"I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!" she wrote. "Through it all….none of it …would have been possible without the best fans in the world. You all are RIDERS and you all have made the ride so fun and ICONIC!!

"I love you madly and appreciate you right back. This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit. With a lot of love and immense gratitude XoE."

It was announced in August that the 53-year-old will only appear in eight episodes in the 19th season, which is currently on its mid-season break. Meredith's farewell episode - Ellen's seventh - will take place when the show returns on 23 February, and it is widely expected that her eighth episode will be the season finale.

Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes marked Ellen's exit on Instagram by sharing snaps of them together over the years.

"What a wild ride these past 19 seasons have been. None of it could have been possible without the incomparable @ellenpompeo, the one and only Meredith Grey. This isn’t a goodbye, it’s a see ya later! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ellen, Meredith and Grey Sloan Memorial," she wrote in the caption.

Ellen will remain as an executive producer and the narrator of the show.