Cancer I Studied Killed Dad; SCIENTIST SUE McLAREN WORKED TO FIND A CURE FOR A RARE BLOOD DISEASE ...BUT IT WAS TOO LATE TO SAVE HER BELOVED FATHER, GORDON
AYOUNG scientist battling to find a cure for a rare and deadly cancer was devastated when her father was struck down by the same disease.
When devoted daughter Sue McLaren accepted an invitation from the Leukaemia Research Fund to do research into myeloma, she admits she knew little about the condition.
But just months into her research degree, she was left reeling in shock when her father told her he had cancer.
And in a cruel twist of fate, he revealed he had been diagnosed with myeloma, the form of cancer that Sue was studying.
As she applied her scientific skills to the deadly disease, she had to watch as her father was ravaged by the cancer which affects just one in 20,000 people.
Sue said his fighting spirit inspired her work. "When Dad was diagnosed, I was shattered," said Sue, of Buchlyvie, near Stirling. "I did wonder if I would be able to carry on. But my dad was always there saying: 'Who can I rely on to help me if I can't rely on my own daughter?'
"And he said: 'If it's not me you're helping, it will be someone else's dad.'
"Those few words of support from him meant a lot more than anything anyone else could say."
Sue, now a government scientist, was only three months into her research doctorate at Aberdeen University, after doing a biochemistry degree at Glasgow, when her dad, Gordon, an engineer, then 55, was diagnosed with cancer.
While myeloma, a blood cancer similar to leukaemia, is uncommon, her dad's diagnosis was even more cruel as most victims are in their seventies.
Sue was studying why chemotherapy does not work on myeloma. Its cancer cells have a self-defence mechanism that fights off the treatment.
Sue, then 22, was trying to find away to stop the mechanism working and allow the chemo to kill the cells. But just as she was settling into her studies, the shocking news came. Sue said: "My father had been suffering from flu-like symptoms for what seemed like six months and the doctor sent his blood for analysis.
"I was in Aberdeen in my student digs and my mum phoned me to tell me.
"I was in shock. I just couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"Having done the research for the first two months of my PhD, I knew what she was talking about. I was heartbroken. It just didn't seem fair that it was happening to us."
She admits the work became an emotional struggle. "I had to do a huge amount of background reading and it became more and more clear I wasn't going to have a father for very much longer," she said. …