Life-long smoker's quit plea after cancer battle led to half her lung being removed

  • Watch Chris Conway's report

A life-long smoker diagnosed with lung cancer made an emotional goodbye video for her teenage daughters in case she did not survive surgery.

Cathy Hunt, was just 49 years old when she was told she had lung cancer, after smoking for almost four decades. She started when she was just 11 years old.

In 2015, the single mum had half a lung removed but underwent surgery again in 2022 when the cancer returned.

Speaking out in a bid to deter young people from picking up the habit, the 58-year-old said: "I was fortunate enough, one of the few fortunate people that could have surgery, so I went in and they took the lung out.

"It was the best outcome that could have happened, but it is excruciating. I was devastated. I wanted to live, it was as simple as that. I wanted to be there for my family."

Speaking of going under the knife the first time, Ms Hunt, from Crook in County Durham, told ITV Tyne Tees: "They had to cut through the muscle, break my ribs, go in, collapse my lung, take part of my lung away and then reinflate my lungs again and that all has to heal.

"Pain-wise, you can't imagine. Your whole world is just blown apart. I was a single mum and I was worried what was going to happen to the girls because lung cancer is probably one of the worst ones for survival rate."

  • Cathy Hunt in an NHS campaign video aimed at urging people to quit smoking. Credit: FRESH/NHS PICTURES

Then in September 2022 a scan revealed the lung cancer had returned and required further surgery. Cathy is now recovering from treatment for cancer on one of her kidneys.

Ms Hunt's story comes as new figures show a decade-long decline in smoking has stalled.

Researchers at University College London say in June 2017 the proportion of smokers in England was just over 16%, falling to around 15% at the start of the pandemic.

Two and a half years later, in August 2022, that figure remains virtually unchanged, prompting one North East anti-smoking organisation to urge those in the region still smoking to quit.

'You're playing Russian roulette with your own life'

To warn young people in the region about the risks of smoking, Ms Hunt has taken part in a TV campaign following further lung cancer surgery.

She added: "I do know my life expectancy is shorter now. I'm probably not going to be here in my seventies.

"When you're smoking you're playing Russian roulette with your own life. It does kill you. There is no other explanation, it kills you.

"I want what happened to me and the truth about lung cancer – to serve as a warning to anyone who smokes or might ever be tempted to pick up their first cigarette.

"Tobacco is as toxic as it smells, it gets you addicted, and it can bring the worst pain and terror into your family.”

Fresh and Balance North East say teenagers are three times more likely to smoke if their parents do.

'Smoking is absolutely lethal'

Ailsa Rutter, director of the organisation, said: "Smoking is absolutely lethal. Two in three long-term smokers will die from a smoking-related illness.

"We do not want anybody out there thinking that smoking isn't still the most harmful thing you can possibly do so we just say give it a go. You're never too late to quit smoking and you're never too old.

"None of us want our children to start an addiction which kills 2 in 3 smokers and costs tens of thousands of pounds over a lifetime. Most of us want to see a smoke-free generation.

"If you smoke, stopping for your family is something amazing you can do for them. You can reduce the risk of them ever taking up smoking and be around longer for them to see the important things in their life."

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