Claire’s story

Claire Oldfield, a hairdresser from Whitley Bay was just 49 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and had two thirds of her right lung removed. Unfortunately due to complications in surgery, Claire went into respiratory failure and was in a coma for nine days, leaving her husband and three children wondering if she’d wake up.

 Thankfully she pulled through and has now been cancer free and smokefree for a year in October. She uses a vape to make sure she doesn’t start smoking again.

“My little girl has always told me smoking was bad for me and it turns out she was right.”

“Like lots of people I’d smoked since I was a teenager – my parents smoked, my friends smoked – it was the ‘in’ thing. I did quit for a few years but relapsed during Covid when I lost my hairdressing business.”

“A few months later, I was constantly tired, my fingers were clubbed and my bones physically ached. I was on a camping trip with my karate club and I just couldn’t join in I felt so ill.

“After a second visit to the doctors I was sent for a chest x-ray and told I had a tumour on my right lung. The only silver lining is that I haven’t smoked a cigarette since that day.”

Due to the position of the tumour right next to Claire’s heart, doctors feared that unless they operated immediately she wouldn’t make it to Christmas. Despite some complications during and after surgery, the operation was a success.

 “Two thirds of my lung was removed and 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.

 “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 for two weeks – when I came out of hospital she wanted to sleep in my bed.”

As well as surgery, Claire also had four cycles of chemotherapy. The treatment was successful and she’s now in remission.

Claire still gets the urge to smoke so has switched to vaping to make sure she doesn’t start again. Her advice for anyone still 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.”