Sheffield rugby union club teenager Lulu Blundell, from Rotherham, died aged 19 on New Year’s Day, after a four year battle against Ewing’s Sarcoma. But in the new short film, produced by the Teenage Cancer Trust campaign, she tells how she ‘laughed and loved’ harder than she ever had in her life in her last few months.
The film celebrates Lulu’s life, and the Teenage Cancer Trust and NHS staff who supported her to keep living life to the full through four years of treatment and in her last months and is released today (Wednesday May 17).
Titled Lulu: Forever 19, it is part of Teenage Cancer Trust’s #talkaboutdying campaign, and sees Lulu’s own words and reflections on living with cancer and a terminal diagnosis read out by her mother Carolyn against a backdrop of photos and video taken by Lulu and her loved ones.
Lulu was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2019, aged 15. After eight months of intense chemotherapy 24 hours a day, for seven days every fortnight, and having to have her leg amputated, she was told she was cancer-free.
But last April, while studying at Newcastle University, she had pain in her shoulder, initially dismissed as a sporting injury. But after her consultant arranged a scan, Lulu was told she had tumours in her shoulder, ribs, and chest, and her cancer was terminal.
Lulu’s mum Carolyn Blundell, said: “There was a lot more to Lulu than her cancer. She was a normal teenager, not a geeky goody two shoes. She had a lust for life, for people, and a spontaneity that was infectious - if she wanted to do something, she did it.
A little bit more time
“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.
“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.”
Last summer Lulu was able to visit Magaluf with friends, Amsterdam with boyfriend Paddy, and enjoyed family trips to London, Northumberland and Manchester.
In the film, Lulu’s words are: “I found out my cancer has come back in four spots, and I have made the decision not to go through chemo; rather be on palliative care and keep all my pain under control until we no longer can…
‘I’ve laughed and loved harder than I ever have in my life’
“Despite being told I have relapsed, and now being terminally ill I’ve laughed and loved harder than I ever have in my life the past few months.”
Carolyn added: “People say they are changed after seeing how she lived, especially in the last six months of her life. They got that tattoo they always wanted or booked a holiday. ‘Living like Lulu’ has become a bit of a mantra for so many.”
The film shows the emotional moment Lulu crossed the line at her Run with Lulu event last September, a charity 5k she organised with her family and rugby club to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust. Lulu ran the event on her prosthetic with a broken shoulder blade, as the tumour had become so large, and raised over £21k to support other young people with cancer.
In the film, Lulu’s words are: “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…
‘Life is too short’
“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.”
Tragically weeks after Run with Lulu, a scan showed that Lulu’s cancer had spread more quickly than expected, and that she had months, not years as previously hoped, to live.
In October and November, Lulu was still able to get out of bed and do one thing a day she wanted. But by December she was too unwell to leave her house.
‘Memories are really precious’
Carolyn said: “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.
“We didn’t think she’d make it to Christmas, but she wanted to show Robin, her oncology consultant, that she’d get to 2023, and she made it to New Year’s Day.”
Lulu died at home with family and loved ones.
As part of the #talkaboutdying campaign, Teenage Cancer Trust has produced new online resources to help young people talk about receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Donate to the family’s appeal in memory of Lulu for Teenage Cancer Trust on www.justgiving.com/fundraising/carolyn-blundell3
Find out more about the #talkaboutdying campaign on www.teenagecancertrust.org/talkaboutdying