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…
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 cysticfibrosis.org.uk/ 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