I can’t bear the thought of losing yet another loved one to cancer

17th November 2021

From a young age, Rachel was never afraid to ask the big questions in life, like: “Why’s the sky blue?”, “What are clouds?”, or perhaps the best of all, “Why were swear words invented if we can’t say them?”. But when Rachel asked her dad why her auntie had no hair, her parents thought long and hard about exactly how much to tell her.

And not too long after Rachel found the wig that had replaced the long, auburn hair that her auntie had had before, Rachel was told that she had been really ill with "something called cancer", that the doctors had tried really hard to make her better, but that sadly she was too unwell. 

Devastatingly, this wouldn’t be the only time the family would lose someone to cancer.

When Rachel was 17 her Grandma Maureen fell ill, fast. She hadn’t smoked for almost a decade, but the damage had already been done. Visiting Aberdeen’s Royal Infirmary for shortness of breath, Maureen wasn’t able to return home again until her final days, where she could be in the comfort of her own bed, surrounded by her family. 

After 55 years of marriage, Rachel's Grandad, Malcolm, was left a widower and struggled to adapt to a life without his darling wife, Maureen. Having had a lovely bond from a young age, Rachel and her Grandad grew closer than ever when grieving the loss of Maureen, and caught up every week. But in September 2020, Malcolm found himself, like his wife, struggling to catch his breath. After a trip to the doctors, Malcolm was told he too had lung cancer - but this time an aggressive and incurable form of lung cancer called Mesothelioma. 

"The doctors told us we'd be lucky if Grandad made it to Christmas Day. It was heartbreaking."

"Between the type of cancer Grandad had, and the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no treatment option available for Grandad that would have given him any quality of life. Our only option was to care for him at home, opt for palliative care, and to get the fluid in his lungs drained as often as possible to keep him comfortable. The nurses were round so frequently they became an extension of the family.

"With the incredible support of my mum, aunts and uncles, Grandad pushed through his illness, and we were lucky to have 13 special months together after diagnosis, until he peacefully passed away on Friday 15th October 2021.

"I'm so grateful that Grandad's mind was still sharp until the very end; still able to do his puzzles, watch the news, and speak to his family before his body succumbed to the illness. He was still Grandad right until the very end, but at times it's hard not to think of what cancer has robbed us of. I would have loved to have danced with him at my wedding one day as we did at my sisters', or see him become a great-grandfather. He would have been the best."

But not everyone’s cancer diagnoses were fatal. 

“I’m so grateful to have been able to watch a few of the people that I love so much survive cancer."

"Thanks to cancer research, Mum was treated for early-stage basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Grandma Eilidh survived breast cancer not once, but twice!"

Rachel and her mum, Katherine
A photo of Rachel and her mum smiling at the camera
Rachel and her Grandma Eilidh
A photo of Rachel and her grandma smiling at the camera
Rachel and her Grandad Malcolm
Rachel and her Grandma Maureen
A photo of Rachel and her grandma smiling at the camera

“They say 1 in 2 of us will get cancer, but for us, it was so many more."

"To hear about the incredible progress being made by Worldwide Cancer Research researchers gave our family such a boost when we needed it most. It gave us hope that one day no family will have to go through what we - and so many other families across the world - have. 

"Wishes aren’t enough to end cancer, but donations to Worldwide Cancer Research to start new cures are. Without funding discovery research, we won't get to see clinical trials or tests and treatments in hospitals saving lives. Devastatingly, it was too late for my auntie, Grandma Maureen, Grandad Malcolm, my great uncle, and my step-dad's mum whom I would have loved to have had the pleasure of meeting - but that doesn’t have to be the case for everyone else."

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Further reading

Cancer explained Cartoon of lungs in yellow and blue on a pink background
Cancer explained

Mesothelioma the asbestos lung cancer

In 2020, it was estimated that over 3,300 people in the UK were diagnosed with mesothelioma - a rare but deadly type of cancer that is mainly caused by exposure to the industrial chemical asbestos.

09 November 2021

Eilidh in a hospital bed holding a cake with '15' birthday candles
Story

Going through what I did when I was so young was terrifying

Eilidh was just 14 when she was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. Now she's raising awareness for the need for more cancer research.

01 September 2021

Professor Salvador Aznar-Benitah in the lab holding a cell culture plate
News

How dietary fats help cancer to spread around the body

Researchers in Spain have discovered how fats found in palm oil can help cancer spread and have developed new drugs to stop it from happening.

10 November 2021