A FATHER has told how a daily 5k run with his two young sons has given the family the strength to cope with a shattering cancer diagnosis and has raised £10,000 in days for a charity hard hit by the pandemic.

Rob Flett’s wife Moira Findlay was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer in October, last year, after suffering few symptoms.

The fit 51-year-old suspected something was wrong after becoming overwhelmed with exhaustion during a mini-triathlon. She had taken part in several previously with no problems.

Her non-specific symptoms were initially thought to be the auto-immune disorder Coeliac disease but a GP pushed for further tests and the family were given the devastating news that Moira had neuroendocrine cancer, a rare tumour that can develop in many different parts of the body – in her case in the pancreas and liver.

It is commonly diagnosed at an advanced staged when palliative care is the only option.

Doctors think it is likely Moira had the cancer for a long time before she was diagnosed but her fitness levels kept the worst of the symptoms at bay.

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Mr Flett said: “Moira was very fit and healthy and enjoyed a very active outdoorsy lifestyle as well as being a busy working mum. We all really enjoy being on the bikes and running and wild swimming and getting into the hills.

“She was taking part in the Loch Tay mini-triathlon with Euan and she was just absolutely exhausted in a way that she thought was unusual.

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“Initially she was diagnosed with Coeliac disease but the GP was excellent and did more tests.

“The kind of cancer Moira has, it’s almost always the case that by the time it’s diagnosed it’s too late to do anything more than palliative care.”

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Mr Flett, who lives in Corstorphine, in Edinburgh, said the couple were open with sons Jamie, 13 and Euan, 16, about their mother’s illness. The 52-year-old is currently in hospital as the cancer causes unpleasant side effects which are difficult to manage at home.  

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He said: “When Moira was diagnosed I spoke to a few people who had lost parents when they were younger. The message we got from everybody was, ‘I wish someone had told me what was going on.’

“What we have tried to do is give the boys as much information as we felt was useful.

"Moira’s strength and positivity and natural resilience is really inspirational.”

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Rob sought support from cancer charity Maggie’s and says an email dropped into his inbox “at the right time” about a  fundraising challenge to run 288 miles in 30 days – the distance between the charity’s eight Scottish centres.

"When the running gets hard I think about how brave she is being." Jamie, 13.

He said: “One of the things I didn’t really appreciate before is how beneficial the act of fundraising is for the people who are doing it as well as the organisation. Some of the difficult conversations that we are having as a family – it’s easier to have those conversations out of the house when we are going for a wee run.

“I was really thinking first and foremost that it would show Moira we were still getting out of the house when she’s not here.

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“The boys are really thinking of her when they are going out. No matter what the weather has been like, they have never moaned and we are just trying to have a bit of an adventure every day.”

Jamie, 13, who is a pupil at Craigmount Secondary School, said: “Our mum has always taken us on adventures and we are really missing her.  When the running gets hard I think about how brave she is being and that keeps me going.”

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Mr Flett, a former BBC journalist, is currently on compassionate leave from his job in public relations at Heriot Watt University.  The family are celebrating passing the £10,000 fundraising mark on day 19 of their running challenge for Maggie’s.

Rob said: “When your family falls ill with cancer it is such a comfort to know someone is there and ready to catch you.

"Cancer isn’t linear, the diagnosis chops and changes. The care from the NHS is absolutely brilliant but equally having the support of an organisation like Maggie’s helps put some of the medical stuff into context, not just for myself and Moira but the boys too.”

Andrew Anderson, centre head for Maggie’s Edinburgh, said: “Rob, Euan and Jamie’s Miles for Maggie’s challenge is really inspiring.  To run the 288 miles between our eight Scottish Maggie’s centres over 30 days, while their mum Moira has cancer, is exceptional.”
To sponsor the family, click here