Made In Chelsea’s James Dun­more: ‘I want to make my sis­ters proud’

James Dun­more, 28, shot to fame in Made In Chelsea, and now he’s hop­ing to raise aware­ness of some­thing very close to his heart…

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There are cer­tain mo­ments in your life that shape the per­son you be­come. For me, it was los­ing not one of my sis­ters, but both of them.

Grow­ing up, my par­ents al­ways in­stilled in my sib­lings and me to live life to the full and have fun. It was es­pe­cially poignant as my older sis­ters, Jodi and Lucinda, had both been di­ag­nosed with cys­tic fi­bro­sis by the age of two. ‘ We’re here for a fun time, not a long time,’ they’d say.

CF is a ge­netic con­di­tion that af­fects more than 10,000 peo­ple in the UK. The gene af­fected by CF con­trols the move­ment of salt and wa­ter in and out of cells. Peo­ple with the con­di­tion ex­pe­ri­ence a build-up of thick mu­cus in the lungs, di­ges­tive sys­tem and other or­gans, caus­ing a range of symp­toms that af­fect the en­tire body. Half of suf­fer­ers don’t live be­yond the age of 47.

But my brave sis­ters never com­plained about it – and they never held it against me that I didn’t have CF. To them, I was the an­noy­ing lit­tle brother, try­ing to play pranks on them, but we al­ways went on ex­cit­ing fam­ily hol­i­days to make the most of our time to­gether.

My mum and dad never wrapped my sis­ters up in cot­ton wool. In­stead, they en­cour­aged them to do what they loved. And it’s

tes­ta­ment to them that Jodi and Lucinda did ex­actly that.

Jodi was horse-mad, and, even though she was semi­al­ler­gic to the an­i­mals, that didn’t stop her. ‘I’m still do­ing it,’ she al­ways said, de­ter­mined, and she even joined a pony club. She and Lucinda both loved danc­ing and had lessons un­til they were in their teens.

I hated hav­ing to go to their dance per­for­mances at the time, but they both loved it. They were both out­go­ing, so­cia­ble, nor­mal girls, and you’d never know they were ill – un­til they coughed.

Ev­ery morn­ing, our mum, Eileen, would have to do phys­io­ther­apy with Jodi and Lucinda to help clear their lungs, and they had to take up to 30 tablets each. When I fi­nally made it down to break­fast each morn­ing, both my sis­ters would be us­ing their neb­u­lis­ers for 15 min­utes to help keep their air­ways open. It was part of their rou­tine to help clear the mu­cus from their lungs.

They never be­grudged me play­ing the sports I loved. They just ac­cepted that CF was a part of them. Maybe, be­hind closed doors, they talked about their con­di­tion and their fears, but they never com­plained.

There were times when Jodi and Lucinda were re­ally ill and needed su­per-strength an­tibi­otics to help them fight in­fec­tions, be­cause their im­mune sys­tems were com­pro­mised. Dur­ing those times, I’d go to Pap­worth Hos­pi­tal, near our home in Cam­bridgeshire, and hang out with my sis­ters – it was the norm for us.

We never made a big deal of CF, which is why it hit me so hard when, just days af­ter Lucinda’s 19th birth­day, when she’d been par­ty­ing with friends, she was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal with the flu.

I as­sumed, like so many hos­pi­tal stays be­fore, that it would be cleared up by nor­mal an­tibi­otics. But, when my par­ents’ friend col­lected me from school one Satur­day to take me straight to the hos­pi­tal, I knew it was bad.

Lucinda was on a ven­ti­la­tor, and I was shocked. For the first time ever, doubts started creep­ing in about her health. Thoughts that I didn’t want to think flooded my mind.

I was dev­as­tated when my sis­ter passed away a few days later, in March 2007, and it was aw­ful for us all. I was just 16 years old, and, de­spite my grief, I wor­ried about Jodi – she’d lost the one per­son who un­der­stood. Ev­ery­thing must have sud­denly be­come very real for her, es­pe­cially as she was the older sis­ter.

Los­ing some­one you love shapes you. I took a step back af­ter Lucinda died and eval­u­ated my life. I wanted to make the most of my time, to be sur­rounded by good peo­ple, and it made me de­ter­mined to help oth­ers.

In time, I could ap­pre­ci­ate that Lucinda’s pass­ing hadn’t been drawn out, that she’d still been able to en­joy her­self to the end – but I missed her ter­ri­bly. Then, just 18 months later, Jodi was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal af­ter be­com­ing short of breath dur­ing a shop­ping trip.

She hugged Mum and said, ‘Mummy, I’m go­ing to die.’

She passed away shortly af­ter­wards, aged 21.

I don’t think she ever re­ally got over los­ing Lucinda, and her death left a gap­ing hole in my life. I was so proud of my sis­ters but, as time went on, I knew I wanted to do some­thing to hon­our their mem­ory and raise aware­ness about cys­tic fi­bro­sis.

Be­ing on the re­al­ity TV show Made In Chelsea made me re­alise I could help peo­ple more. I wanted other CF suf­fer­ers to know that their con­di­tion wasn’t weird, and that it’s nor­mal to get sup­port.

So, I backed a pe­ti­tion for Orkambi, a new drug that could in­crease the life ex­pectancy of thou­sands of CF suf­fer­ers, to be avail­able on the NHS. I’ve com­pleted the Tough Mud­der chal­lenge and, in Oc­to­ber, I’m climb­ing Mount Kil­i­man­jaro on be­half of the Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis Trust’s Res­o­lu­tion Cam­paign.

Jodi and Lucinda were vi­brant, gor­geous, lively girls, and, although I may not be able to help them, if there’s any chance I can help to raise money for vi­tal re­search that will stop other fam­i­lies go­ing through what we did, then I want to make that hap­pen – and make my sis­ters proud. For info, see justgiv­ing. com/fundrais­ing/james­dun­more1 and cys­tic­fi­bro­ get-in­volved/fundrais­ing/ join-our-fundrais­ing­cam­paigns/res­o­lu­tions

‘You would never know they were ill… un­til they coughed’

Re­al­ity TV star James wants to use his fame to fight cys­tic fi­bro­sis ‘An­noy­ing lit­tle brother’ James with his beloved sis­ters

Lucinda and Jodi lived life to the full un­til their deaths aged just 19 and 21

James did the Tough Mud­der chal­lenge

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