Rachel Henderson, 36, from Dumfries, lost her dad Keith Parker to myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, on May 1 last year.
And ahead of what would have been his 62nd birthday, today, the mother-of-two has embarked on a mission to support charity Myeloma UK, help fund research into a cure.
Rachel said: “My family and I have raised around £5000 in the past for Myeloma UK. Without the work they do, my dad may not have had the five years that he got.
“To say he has left a massive hole in our lives would be an understatement. We all miss him hugely every single day.”
Keith first spotted a lump on his testicle in January 2015 and doctors initially suspected testicular cancer. In fact, it was a plasmacytoma, a rare complication of the blood cancer myeloma, which is hard to treat.
Rachel said: “It was genuinely the worst time of my life. It was such a shock.
“He didn’t have any of the usual symptoms of myeloma. We felt alone. Nobody we knew had had myeloma.”
Keith underwent chemotherapy that year and later received a stem cell transplant, but did not respond well.
As the disease progressed, he began experiencing excruciating back pain and mobility issues. Eventually, his spine fractured in four places and he shrank by four inches.
Myeloma occurs in the bone marrow and currently affects over 24,000 people in the UK. Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, it is difficult to detect as symptoms can often be linked to general ageing or minor conditions.
By December 2019, Keith started to run out of options. During his five-year battle, he went through six different courses of treatment.
“It was clear at the start of April 2020 that his body couldn’t take the treatment anymore,” Rachel said.
He passed away during lockdown but his family was unable to hold a proper funeral.
However, in December 2020, Rachel signed up to Myeloma UK’s virtual race, Lost in Lapland. She ran 50km over 23 days and completed the challenge at her dad’s memorial bench at Crichton Gardens.
“For me this was a way to mark his passing, say goodbye to dad, and raise awareness of myeloma,” she said.
Rachel, as well as mum Irene and brother Murray, are more determined than ever to raise funds for Myeloma UK in Keith’s memory and help to spare others the pain and helplessness the family experienced.