Mum from Whitley Bay urges others to quit smoking after surviving lung cancer
Claire Oldfield, from Whitley Bay, was diagnosed with lung cancer at 49. She had surgery to remove two thirds of her right lung but the complications in surgery left her in a coma for two weeks, and her husband and three children wondered if she’d wake up.
She pulled through after surgery, but needed four cycles of chemotherapy. She has been in remission and smoke free for six months.
The 50-year-old had smoked since she was a teenager, but now, as a part of the Smoking Survivors campaign by Fresh, she is sharing her powerful and life-changing experience and urging smokers across the North East to quit.
Latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics show adult smoking rates in the North East have fallen, yet smoking remains the region's biggest cause of cancer, and the single largest cause of preventable deaths.
Claire said: “My little girl has always told me smoking was bad for me and it turns out she was right. When I was in a coma my husband sat by my bedside every day and my grown-up son came home to look after me once I was discharged.
"It was definitely worse for my family, not knowing if I was going to wake up. My daughter was only 11 at the time. We tried to keep as much away from her as we could but it was very hard for her not seeing me.
“I no longer have a diaphragm on the right side so my diaphragm on the left has to do all of the work. I can’t walk too far and can’t lie flat, or I feel like I’m drowning. I know I’ll never be the same again but I’m just glad to be here.”
Claire’s advice for anyone smoking is: “Please don’t wait until it’s too late. Try switching to a vape to help you quit for good. It’s less harmful than smoking tobacco and helps you to manage the cravings. I know how hard it is but do it for your family.”
The Smoking Survivors campaign is being run as part of a commitment from all 12 North East local authorities and the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board to reduce smoking.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking is a lethal addiction which often starts in childhood and ends up killing two in three lifelong smokers, leaving countless others suffering from illness due to smoking.
“Claire is incredibly brave to come forward and share how smoking has changed her life forever. She’s doing this because she wants to spare other families the pain of seeing their loved ones suffer from smoking.
“If you smoke, quitting is the single best thing you could do for your health. There is so much support out there now to help you quit as well – whether it’s vaping or behavioural support from a stop smoking advisor. So even if you’ve tried to quit in the past and it hasn’t worked, we really urge you to reach out for help and give quitting another go.”
Fresh is urging smokers to visit their website for tips, advice and local stop smoking support.