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Davina McCall emotionally recalls losing her sister to lung cancer

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Kayleigh Dray
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Davina McCall

“I slept on her floor next to her bed holding her hand. And I could hear her breathing. I closed my eyes and I heard her breathing differently,” says Davina McCall.

Davina McCall is one of the UK’s most loved TV personalities. She first flexed her presenting muscles on MTV Europe back in 1992 and, since then, she has appeared almost constantly on our screens, working on shows such as Big Brother, This Morning, The Jump, Long Lost Family, Celebrity Bake Off, and The Nightly Show.

However, despite her hugely successful career and positively infectious enthusiasm for life, McCall has – like so many of us – experienced tragedies and difficulties behind closed doors. She has spoken honestly about her fraught relationship with her late mother (“I felt she’d done something to betray me or hurt me”) and how it led her to seek solace in drugs: in fact, she recently opened up about overcoming a long-term heroin addiction when she was younger.

And now, as part of Channel 4’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign, McCall has opened up about the moment she lost her beloved sister to lung cancer in 2012.

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Speaking directly into the camera, McCall explained that, when she accompanied Caroline Baday to the hospital, she never expected them to come back with such a serious diagnosis.

“I was so confused,” she said. “I thought, surely, she’s had a stroke? But the doctor came in and said, ‘I’m afraid it’s not good news, you have tumours in both lungs.’”

An emotional McCall continued: “She was my big sister. So I was used to her looking after me. But I had to look after her.

“I remember saying to her, ‘it’s going to be fine,’ but had to step outside and remember thinking to myself, ‘what am I going to do?’”

Recounting the time she spent with Caroline before her death, McCall said: “I think I spent every day except for three or four days with her after her diagnosis.

“I slept on her floor next to her bed holding her hand. And I could hear her breathing. I closed my eyes and I heard her breathing differently.

“I opened my eyes and thought, ‘I think she’s going’.”

McCall added that she mostly just misses “talking” to her sister, but says that she and her family work to honour Caroline’s spirit every single day.

“We celebrate her birthday,” she said. “She lives on in our children… [and] we don’t mark her death.”

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Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread, but some people with early lung cancer do have symptoms. If you go to your doctor when you first notice symptoms, your cancer might be diagnosed at an earlier stage, when treatment is more likely to be effective.

According to the NHS, the most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • a cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks
  • a long-standing cough that gets worse
  • persistent chest infections
  • coughing up blood
  • an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • persistent breathlessness
  • persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

As noted by Stand Up To Cancer, one in two people in the UK will get cancer during their life time. To donate money towards life-saving cancer research, visit their website now. Or, if you’d prefer to make a donation by phone, you can call Cancer Research UK on 0300 123 4444. 

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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