IWILLnever forget where I was and what I was doing when I heard the words: "Dad has cancer".

It was November 1997. I was 16 and was sitting on the living-room floor after college listening to Mark Goodier on Radio 1.

I was waiting for my mum Jean and dad John to return from an appointment at a private hospital, where he'd had an X-ray after suffering from a cough for weeks.

As soon as they walked through the living-room door and said those three words, nothing would ever be the same again.

I can still recall exactly how I felt. A sick headrush, like the one you get just as a rollercoaster tops over the edge of the hill and careers down into nothingness.

Then, of course, there was sobbing. Screaming. And strangely I demanded to be taken to the hospital. I felt that was where we should be. Afterward, I remember sitting on the other side of the kitchen door listening to my mum break the news on the phone to family, friends, and work colleagues.

She even phoned my friends.

He had lung cancer, Scotland's biggest cancer killer, and it had spread to his bones.

My dad had smoked Senior Service or Players – the strongest fags you could buy – for 20 years, but had given up 15 years before, when I was a baby.

I remember, amid the tears, of him calling it a "stupid habit".

His diagnosis came just months after he had taken early retirement from his career as assistant manager at Yorkshire Bank in our home town, Grimsby in Lincolnshire, to start a hobby-cum-business developing property.

But he'd got a severe cough while we were on holiday in Barcelona in August 1997.

He went to his GP. "All my patients have a cough," he said, and told him to gargle with blackcurrant.

The doctor also completely missed other symptoms, including swollen ankles and a swelling of the fingers, called "clubbing".

Three weeks later my parents demanded a second opinion, and a consultant sent him for an X-ray, privately, to speed it up. The next day an urgent phone call led to the horrific diagnosis.

Dad was optimistic, saying, "sometimes you do see people sitting up in bed talking about it".

But the odds were, and still are, grim. Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer because more than two-thirds of patients are diagnosed at a late stage when a cure is impossible.

In Scotland half of patients are dead within four months of diagnosis.

Dad was given chemotherapy and radiotherapy and lost his hair. For a few weeks things were not too bad. We went on trips, to Edinburgh, to Spain, and he even went to London to get a visa to take me on my dream holiday to New York.

He spoke about how we'd go on a helicopter trip over the Hudson River.

But it was too late.

He went downhill fast, and the beginning of the end came when he went into hospital on his 56th birthday, March 9.

Distressing doesn't even begin to cover how we felt.

He developed fluid on his lungs which had to be drained with a line through his back.

He asked the doctor if he was going to suffocate to death.

He cried how he wanted to return to our house one last time – and he did – to a hospital bed in the dining room adorned with certificates from my violin exams.

I can remember sharing Haagen Dazs ice cream sitting on his bed. The night visits of a Marie Curie nurse. A pink folder under the side table marked "palliative care".

A phone call to one of his friends when he said "you wouldn't let a dog live like this". The hallucinations caused by the drugs.

The day he asked me to hand him the old ice cream box of tablets so he could end it all. He didn't.

He died hours after being admitted to the local hospice on April 3, 1998, six months after diagnosis, and aged just 56.

That summer, my mum and I went on that trip to New York. And it was great but I wish my dad could have been there.

Though I spend my days coaxing stories from others, I've never told mine before.

But when I was asked to lead this Evening Times campaign, I knew I had to do it. When you light your next cigarette I hope you remember the shocking details.

Half of all smokers die early, and smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer.

Stubbing out the habit might not stop you getting cancer. Or you could be unlucky enough never to smoke and still get it.

I know you've spent years ignoring the warnings, switching off from shock campaigns, saying you're going to die anyway, you only smoke when you drink, or you'll stop after Christmas.

Giving up will be very hard. Just like telling this story has been.

But I'm asking you: For your family and for yourself. For my dad...

Please stop!

IN DAY Five of the Evening Times' Clear the Air campaign, our reporter Sarah Swain tells her own personal story of how her father was diagnosed with lung cancer, 15 years after giving up cigarettes.

Here she recalls the devastating news which left her mum a widow at 51 and left her with a lifelong dislike of smoking.

n LUNG cancer is one of Scotland's biggest killers, claiming the lives of 4055 people last year, with 90% of cases caused by smoking.


TOMORROW Meet some of the people who have battled to stop smoking

OUR Clear The Air campaign – run in conjunction with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire – aims to highlight the risks of Scotland's biggest killer and help you quit smoking for good.

Every day in Scotland, 36 smokers die from horrific illnesses, such as lung or mouth cancer, stroke or heart disease.

Then there is the harm caused to others by second-hand smoke, not to mention the spiralling cost.

For help to stop smoking see our website at www.eveningtimes.co.uk/cleartheair or call Smokeline on 0800 848484.

Find us on Facebook by visiting on.fb.me/clearair and Twitter bit.ly/etclearair.

We are also looking for your stories. Call reporter Sarah Swain on 0141 302 6532 or send an e-mail to: sarah.swain@eveningtimes.co.uk