Jackie – Head of Clinical & Research Projects at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation – has been a part of our charity since 2008. She has taken on several fundraising challenges, including an abseil down Liverpool Cathedral and a 10K run. But in 2019, she took her fundraising to new heights by skydiving from 15,000ft.
In the lead up to Mother’s Day 2022, Jackie shares her reasons for taking on this adrenaline fuelled challenge in memory of her mum, Val.
“My mum was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 1995. The lead up, I’ve since learned, was typical; several visits to her GP due to constant coughing and difficulty swallowing, several courses of antibiotics, before a CT scan revealed she had lung cancer. Devastatingly, the diagnosis was made too late for curative treatment and a few short weeks later my beautiful, caring, wonderful mum died. She had just turned 51.
“Over the years, I’d been extremely conscious that mum died at a really young age and as I edged closer to becoming the exact same age as she was when she died, I knew I had to mark the day in some way. It had to be something people would be willing to sponsor me for, something that would scare me and something that would make me feel very much alive, and a skydive ticked all those boxes!
“Although I had decided skydiving was what I would be doing, it actually took me months to book it as I was so terrified. Just the thought of booking gave me palpitations and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to think of something else I could do instead, but a skydive just seemed right somehow and eventually I took the plunge (excuse the pun) and signed up.
“As jump day approached, I can’t lie, my anxiety grew. I kept imagining myself having to be manhandled to the door of the plane but having to go ahead with it as I couldn’t let those who had supported me with sponsorship down; I couldn’t let myself down. Miraculously on the day itself, I woke to find my anxiety had been replaced with a feeling of total calm, not a single ounce of fear remained – the mind really does work in mysterious ways!”
“The guys at the Skydive Centre (Tilstock) were brilliant, getting me kitted out and through the safety training, even hanging me up in a harness to ensure I could lift my legs high enough for landing. I kept expecting anxiety to return but as we took off in the tiny plane and steadily climbed to 15,000ft, I was just super excited! Then it was time, the door slid back, and I found myself dangling fully outside the plane before tumbling into freefall – Geronimo!”
“I could feel and hear the air rushing past me as we headed frantically towards the ground. I could feel the spikiness of the rain inside the clouds hitting my face as we passed through them, and I whooped and waved to the cameraman who was filming it all – amazing! As the parachute opened it felt like we were momentarily going back up and my legs flew towards my chest, but we had just slowed to a glide and around us was totally silent.
“Once I got my bearings, my instructor took hold of my hands and placed them on the steering lines – pull down left to go left, pull down right to go right – and I was then controlling the parachute and where we went for a short time. It was unbelievable!
“All too quickly the ground was coming towards us fast and the instructor shouted, ‘legs up, legs up!’ and we came to a very dignified stop on the ground with a gentle bump. Absolutely AWESOME, and that’s exactly what I shouted when we landed, because it truly was awesome!”
“I achieved three things from doing my skydive:
- – I raised over £2,000 for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.
- – I showed myself that if I put my mind to doing something, no matter how scared I feel, I can do it.
- – Psychologically, I’m in extra time – living the life that mum didn’t get to finish, living my best life for her.”
Take to the Skies
This July, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is hosting a Skydive Day in partnership with Black Knights Parachute Centre in Lancashire. If you’re looking to do something amazing like Jackie, whether it’s in memory or in support of your mum, step-mum, mother figure or nan, you’re guaranteed to have an incredible experience.Find out more