Newcastle University student documents her own cancer story before her death aged 19

17.05.23 Lulu Blundell Credit: Teenage Cancer Trust / Family
Newcastle University student, Lulu Blundell, 19, lived life "to the full" in spite of terminal cancer diagnosis and left advice after her death "to do the things you said you were going to do tomorrow as life is too short."" Credit: Teenage Cancer Trust / Family

A 19-year-old woman's life has been documented on film to capture her "live life to the full" mantra before her death on New Year's Day.

Lulu Blundell was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2019 when she was just 15-years-old. and had to have extensive chemotherapy and her leg amputated.

She was given the good news of being cancer-free on 20 January 2020.

However, in April 2022, the Newcastle University student had a pain in her shoulder that ultimately led to her terminal cancer diagnosis.

The Teenage Cancer Trust have released a short but moving film that celebrates Lulu's life. It is part of the charity's #talkaboutdying campaign and is called Lulu:Forever 19.

Initially, Lulu's shoulder pain was dismissed as a sporting injury but following a CT scan the devastating diagnosis was delivered after tumours were found in her shoulder, ribs and chest.

Lulu, originally from Rotherham, was referred to Newcastle's Teenage Cancer Trust team in Newcastle where she received palliative support that enabled her to live life to the full.

She said: "Happiness can be found in any situation at any point, and a pinch of kindness will never go amiss; behind closed doors someone might need you to be their ray of sunshine.

"I hope after reading this I’ve inspired you to do the things you said you were going to do tomorrow, make the people around you smile, and stop worrying about the things that don’t need worrying about. Life is too short."

Lulu with her mum, Carolyn Bundell in Newcastle's Freeman Hospital where the Teenage Cancer Trust team enabled her to live life to the full. Credit: Teenage Cancer Trust / Family

Her mum, Carolyn Blundell, said: “Lulu’s specialists said that further chemo could buy her a little bit more time but that’s not what she wanted - she said she didn’t want to spend any of the time that she had left in a hospital bed."

She added: "Living like Lulu has become a bit of a mantra for so many.”

There followed a series of bucket list goals including heading to Magaluf and Glastonbury with her friends but her mum said it was no easy task and praised those who cared for Lulu.

Lulu Blundell visited Amsterdam with her boyfriend, Paddy as well as travelling to Magaluf and Glastonbury with friends. Credit: Teenage Cancer Trust / Family

Her mum said: “Danielle, her Teenage Cancer Trust nurse, and NHS staff working at the charity’s units in Newcastle and Sheffield, went above and beyond to make sure she could do the things she wanted in the time she had left– like go to Glastonbury. Things that might seem simple but take a lot of planning when somebody is very unwell. 

“She went to the festival with her friends on a ton of pain relief – it was all arranged so that she could store and take it in the first aid tent. 

"Had she become really unwell she wouldn’t have had to go to A&E, a named contact at the local hospital had been briefed about her whole history and was on hand if needed.”

The teenager made sure to thank those who took care of her and wrote: " Every single nurse, therapist, social worker that has worked alongside me has been my little ray of sunshine. Time and time again through chemo, remission and relapse they have saved my life whether that be physically or mentally."

She was keen to give back to the charity that had helped her so much and the newly-released film shows the moment she crossed the line at her Run with Lulu event in September, 2022.

Lulu ran on her prosthetic leg with her boyfriend Paddy by her side and has raised almost £100k to help young people with cancer. Credit: Teenage Cancer Trust / Family

The young student organised a charity 5k to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust in spite the fact she had to run on her prosthetic leg with a broken shoulder blade because her tumour had grown so large.

Run with Lulu raised over £21k to support other young people with cancer and altogether she raised over £95k for Teenage Cancer Trust. Her mother and those she loved continue to fundraise in her memory and hope to hit their £100k target this year.

Tragically, just weeks after the fund-raising event, a scan showed that Lulu’s cancer had spread more quickly than expected, meaning she had months - not years - to live.

Her mum added: “When you realise that you have so little time with someone you become really present in the moment.  Right through last summer, and especially after we found out the cancer had spread, we basked in every little thing we did together. 

"You can’t manufacture that situation and there were moments of spectacularly pure beauty and love. Even memories of watching Love Island with Lulu, her brother Seth and Paddy are really precious. 

“But nothing could have prepared us for those last few weeks."

About Teenage Cancer Trust

  • Every day, seven young people in the UK aged 13 to 24 hear the words "you have cancer".

  • Teenage Cancer Trust aims to put young people in the best possible place, physically, mentally and emotionally, for their cancer treatment and beyond.

  • The charity has expert nurses, support teams, and hospital units and is the only UK charity dedicated to providing this specialised nursing care and support.

Find out more about the #talkaboutdying campaign here

Lulu Blundell loved spending time with her friends, loved ones and dog, Coco. Credit: Teenage Cancer Trust / Family

Lulu, who was determined to show her oncologist she could make it to 2023, died at home on New Year's Day with her family and loved ones close by.

Teenage Cancer Trust has produced online resources to help young people talk about receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Mrs Blundell said: “Discussing the arrangements for her to die at home, helping her choose the spot where she wanted to be buried, and talking about her plans for the celebration she wanted after her death was so hard, we needed that support. 

“We will never stop grieving for Lulu but knowing that she was able to express what she wanted and being able to fulfil those wishes brings us some comfort.”

She added: “If sharing Lulu’s story and our fundraising helps another young person or their family then we can take some comfort from that - it is too impossible to think no good can come from this tragedy and this is my driver to carry on, regardless of how long that takes.”

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