Bereaved Story

“I could never have predicted I would lose my Mum so early on in life. You always assume you have all the time in the world but when something as devastating as pancreatic cancer hits your life, you’re left clutching time that is always running out.”

Debbie Rutherford is taking part in the Glasgow Kiltwalk on Sunday alongside her sister Kirsty and fiancé Larry. They are raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Action in memory of Debbie and Kirsty’s mum Rachel, who died of pancreatic cancer in September 2022.

“Mum was so special,” reflects Debbie. “Throughout her 22-month battle with pancreatic cancer, she showed unbelievable resilience.” 

“Fundraising and raising awareness are a great way to keep Mum’s legacy alive”, adds Kirsty. “It allows us to speak about Mum’s courageous battle whilst raising funds in the hope that eventually others don’t go through what we did.”

Rachel first started feeling unwell shortly after her 60th birthday in February 2020. She had celebrated her milestone birthday with a weekend of family celebrations at her home on the Isle of Mull. She had also just become a grandmother for the first time and was relishing spending time with her grandson Cian.

Rachel started experiencing bloating. She initially dismissed it but when the feeling persisted, she went to see the doctor. She was prescribed indigestion medicine and was told no further investigations were needed. Rachel’s symptoms worsened and she was given a scan in October 2020, that showed she had a mass on her pancreas. The oncologist was hopeful the tumour could be surgically removed. Rachel began what would end up being six rounds of chemotherapy in an effort to shrink the tumour so that surgery could be carried out. She suffered multiple side effects and was hospitalised with life-threatening sepsis. 

In May 2022, Rachel had two rounds of chemotherapy and developed sepsis again, which led to a three-week hospital stay. She planned to restart chemotherapy later, but it wasn’t to be. Rachel passed away at home on 14th September 2022 with her children Craig, Debbie and Kirsty and her sister by her side.

Since then, Debbie and Kirsty have been facing the reality of life without their Mum. 

“I miss her presence”, states Kirsty. “Just knowing she was around was enough to make you feel safe. It will forever feel like something is missing without her. I miss her cheeky texts and just being able to pick up the phone and call her. I miss the simple things like having a cup of tea and a gossip.” 

Debbie and Larry, who got engaged in December 2020, are contemplating life’s big milestones without Debbie’s Mum Rachel there with them. 

Debbie: “My Mum will never see me in my wedding dress or walk down the aisle. She will never get to see me as a Mum or spoil the grandchildren she would adore. I won’t have my Mum to lean on in those daunting times when I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. 

“I have changed so much as a result of these past few years, and she will never know this new person I have become. That’s really difficult. 

“All the happy times are tinged with a bit of sadness that she can’t be here to share it all with us. When Mum passed away it felt like a light went out in our lives and at times it can feel like it’s never really been switched back on. It’s a constant feeling of being homesick but home doesn’t feel like home anymore when she’s not there. I am surrounded by love and have lots to be grateful for, but Mum’s absence is felt so deeply in everything I do.”

Debbie and Kirsty hope that taking part in the Glasgow Kiltwalk on Sunday will help raise important funds for Pancreatic Cancer Action in its effort to help save lives through earlier diagnosis. 

Kirsty: “Before Mum was diagnosed, I had heard of pancreatic cancer but that’s about it. That’s why I think it’s important we raise more awareness as it’s not one of the cancers that you hear about as much as others, although it’s the one with the scariest statistics.”