23rd September 2020
From a young age, Rachel would often ponder some of life’s biggest questions (for a five-year-old) such as “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. "The doctors had tried really hard to make her better", her dad told her, "but 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 10 years, 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.
But not everyone’s cancer diagnoses were fatal. In fact, more of Rachel’s loved ones touched by cancer have actually overcome cancer.
“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! Cancer truly is a horrible disease – one that no family should have to fear. Devastatingly my auntie, Grandma Maureen and my great uncle weren’t so lucky in their experiences with cancer. Nor was my step-father's mother, who I would have loved to have had the pleasure of meeting."
“It’s hard enough to say goodbye to your loved ones, but I can’t imagine how hard it was for my parents to sit me down and have the dreaded conversation too. Telling any child that a loved one has passed would never be easy. I hope I never have to have a similar conversation with my future children, but regretfully, I know that this isn’t likely to be the case.
The future of cancer research starts with us. But to start cures and prevent more loved ones dying from cancer, we need to raise awareness of the need for lifesaving cancer research.”
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