Bereaved Story

“Dad was given three to six months to live, but he died six days after receiving the diagnosis. He was 56.”

"I’m running the Inverness Half Marathon to raise money in honour of my Dad who died from pancreatic cancer last year, six days after being diagnosed"

I’ve never done anything like this before – I’ve played sports, but nothing like this. I want to say a huge thank you to Duffy (Kenny Murray), who is taking me on the training runs and helps keep me going and on track. I’m doing this for my old man in order to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer Action.

I live in the small village of Lochcarron, in the northwest Highlands. I was born here, and I grew up here. I spent a few years in Oban when I was very young, and I also studied and worked in Glasgow and Aberdeen. I moved back home to Lochcarron for work just over a year ago. My Dad grew up in Bonar Bridge but moved to Lochcarron when he was 17 and spent most of his adult life here.

Dad always seemed to be the centre of attention without trying – he just loved the craic. He brought life and soul to the party, and almost everybody in the area knew him. He was really sociable, and it wasn’t unknown for him to frequent the village pub. He worked in the salmon industry his whole life, with both wild and farmed fish, and in the later years, he built salmon farm cages.

In early 2022, my dad started to feel unwell. I remember he went out to a gig on his birthday in February, and when he came home, he was wiped out. He was one of those guys who just got on with things and never wanted to bother the Doctor. He had a few health issues throughout his life, such as cysts in his stomach and a hernia, but he had had operations to deal with them.

Later in 2022, he was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. He totally stopped drinking alcohol and started feeling better. He was pretty good for a few months until January 2023, when he started feeling bad again. He went to the local Doctors, and they did many tests. He was in so much pain and couldn’t eat. He had no energy and was losing weight. I can’t thank the local GPs, nurses, and practice staff enough for looking after him and pushing for him to be admitted to hospital.

When he went into hospital, the doctors found that he still had the original cysts in his stomach but now had two new cysts growing on his pancreas. I think they thought the cysts were stopping him from digesting food properly, and he had an operation to bypass part of the duodenum. They did several biopsies throughout the year, and they were certain it wasn’t cancer. By this point, Dad didn’t have a lack of appetite, but he wasn’t able to eat or digest food. You could see the swollen lump of the cyst on his stomach around the pancreas. Looking back, I’m sure he hid from us how much pain he was really in. I think he was in way more pain than he let on.

In September 2023, he received the news that, unfortunately, it was cancer, and they gave him three to six months to live. The cyst was so tangled around his internal organs that they couldn’t do anything. He was skin and bone, and he couldn’t have radiotherapy or chemotherapy. On Monday, 18th September, he was told that he had terminal pancreatic cancer. The next day, he came home so we could look after him. He died the following Sunday, only six days after receiving the diagnosis. He was 56.

My Dad took everything at face value. When he received the news that he had pancreatic cancer, he called me at work and broke the news. I then phoned my brother and sister. Dad took it as it was – he just accepted it. At this time, my Mum was down in Glasgow, having just had open heart surgery, so it was up to me and my brother and sister to be there for Dad. It all happened so quickly.

My brother, my mum, my sister, and I have just got to get on with it now. I was off work for a bit, so we had time to organise everything with the funeral. When Dad died, he didn’t have anything written down, like a will or what he wanted. He had previously helped a friend build his own coffin, and he was buried in that. My brother and his girlfriend decorated it, painting Celtic knotwork and lyrics from a song he and Mum used to sing together.

We collected donations at Dad’s funeral and at the celebration of his life that was held two days later. We raised an amazing £800. We donated the money to Pancreatic Cancer Action because they focus on early diagnosis. We want to help change things so that no one else has to go through what our family went through.