Samantha Cullen has seen both sides of lung cancer. In 2011, her gran, Sylvia, was diagnosed and had surgery. Eleven years on, she remains cancer-free. Sadly though, in that time Samantha has lost her Papa in 2015 and then her other gran, Chris, just last year. Now, after two previously failed attempts, Samantha took to the skies to honour of all three grandparents.
“I have always wanted to do a sky dive since I was young, but never really had a cause. But with lung cancer having such an impact on my family, it felt like the right time to finally take the leap.
My sky dive was rescheduled three times, with the weather thwarting the first two tries. Finally, it was third time lucky, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day! The sun was shining, and I was bursting with excitement.
When the doors opened, it was very loud. Then everything happened so fast. I thought they’d count down from three but no, we were out on 2!
Those first few seconds out of the plane were amazing. Words cannot even describe it. It’s just the most blissful feeling in the world.
The freefall is over so quickly before you’re yanked by the parachute, but then you get to take in the sights like never before. Because it was such a lovely day, I had the most beautiful views of Scotland. I was even able to fly the parachute. We did spins all the way down! The experience was one of the best things I have ever done and want to do it again already, especially if it means we can raise more money for the charity.
It’s such an important charity. The research it funds, the support it offers, all of the awareness it raises – I’m so glad we’ve been able to help in some way. I think awareness especially is so important – now more than ever. It can be the difference between an early and curable diagnosis or a late and incurable one.
My gran, Sylvia, was diagnosed early and she’s still here. She was still smoking at the time but the moment she was diagnosed, she quit. She said ‘I wanted to live to see my granddaughter get married, so the fags are gone.’ I recently just got engaged so it looks like she will get her wish!
Sadly, my papa and other gran, Chris, weren’t as lucky. Papa Cullen, or Jokey as he was known, passed away from lung cancer 7 years ago. He loved to go to his local bowling club. It was his favourite pastime. I think it’s likely his lung cancer was caused by the passive smoking from his clubbing days – just like Roy Castle himself.
My gran had many symptoms. She was always out of breath; stairs were a real struggle for her. She also had a continuous cough and raspy voice. Despite all this and our family history, she was sent home with nothing diagnosed and only a few water tablets. If it wasn’t for my dad’s persistence and taking her to the hospital, who know when, or if, she’d have been diagnosed.
I just want people to know what the symptoms are and that if they have any of them to go and get checked. Coughs are now so quickly put down to Covid, or simple chest infections. But they can be so much more than that. We found that out the hard way.”