Pancreatic cancer: 'Mum is missed every day but especially at Christmas'

Debbie Rutherford supports new fundraising campaign aimed at ensuring more people get an earlier diagnosis.

Pancreatic cancer: ‘Mum is missed every day but especially at Christmas’ Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland

A woman who lost her mum to pancreatic cancer has thrown her support behind a new fundraising campaign that aims to ensure more people aren’t “missed at Christmas” by getting an earlier diagnosis.

Debbie Rutherford’s mum, Rachel, passed away in 2022 at the age of 62. Debbie was at her bedside, along with her brother Craig and sister Kirsty, when she died.

Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest of all common cancers, with a five-year survival rate of less than 8%.

More than 900 people in Scotland are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year and around 26 people die from the illness every day in the UK.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland is now inviting people to donate and share a dedication to loved ones. Participants will receive a special purple heart to display in their relative’s memory this Christmas.

Debbie said: “Mum was the centre of our world. She always made Christmas special for me, my brother and my sister. It is hard to believe that another year is ending without her. She is missed every day but is especially missed at Christmas. 

“Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland’s new #MISSEDatChristmas campaign provides me and my family with a way to pay tribute to mum this Christmas.”  

Rachel began experiencing symptoms in June 2020. It started with bloating, which she put down to the fact she had eaten a curry for dinner. When the feeling persisted, she contacted her GP.

With the country in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, it proved difficult to get a face-to-face appointment. Rachel was prescribed indigestion medicine and was told by doctors that no further investigations were needed.  

Rachel’s symptoms continued and doctors then agreed to refer her for a scan. In October 2020, a scan showed a mass on her pancreas.

The tumour hadn’t spread, however, and her oncologist was hopeful it would be operable. The plan was to go ahead with six rounds of chemotherapy.  

But the reality of living on the Isle of Mull meant Rachel’s medical appointments involved a lot of travelling, ferry journeys, hotel stays, early starts and late nights arriving back home. In January 2021, Rachel began her first round of chemotherapy.

She suffered multiple side effects and ended up in hospital with life-threatening sepsis. More rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed as well as a serious bowel infection, a stomach ulcer and another bout of sepsis. 

In August 2022, Rachel started to deteriorate. She passed away on September 14, 2022, with her three children and her sister by her side. She died at her home on the Isle of Mull. 

Joe Kirwin, chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer Action, said: “Our #MISSEDatChristmas campaign offers an opportunity for people to remember their loved ones lost to pancreatic cancer.

“We’ve had special purple hearts made for people to display in their memory, and we’re sending these out to everyone who supports the campaign.  

“In the UK, around 26 people die every day from pancreatic cancer. For just £10, you could help us get patients and their families vital information and support.

“All the money raised will go towards fighting for earlier diagnosis to help ensure that more people aren’t missed at Christmas.” 
Learn more about Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland’s #MISSEDatChristmas campaign: 

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