Ally McLaws – Living with cancer during a pandemic: Life, death and the wonder of the human spirit in the darkest times

A DEAR friend of mine lost his daughter to cancer last week. He and his wife caught a last-minute flight to the UK from their Tenerife home to be with her as she slipped away peacefully.

She had held on to see her parents, her sister, and to hear her daughter’s exam results before surrendering her fight.

Meanwhile, another young woman with terminal stage four breast cancer living in Edinburgh is continuing with her battle.

She is excited at the prospect of winning formal charitable status for Cancer Card, a project she has developed and honed into a marvellous reference directory for victims of cancer and their family and friends.

A third young woman is a single mum with a colourful collection of headscarves and a very tough chemo regime to cope with. She’s determined to battle through her challenges with a brave face and a well-hidden worried brow.

She has applied a single focus approach – total trust in her Beatson oncology team – and takes every ounce of support from friends, family and Maggie’s to get her through the other side.

Living with terminal cancer during this global pandemic has brought so much extra emotion, restriction, threat and fear.

Now, the terror of climate catastrophe has been thrown into the mix – a mind-blowing horror that we can hardly comprehend we’ve allowed to happen.

When Covid impacted early in 2019, there was talk of the world finding itself in one of our own “disaster movies” – that the imagination of the movie makers had become a reality and we were the real-life “stars”.

Today, we have the ultimate horror double bill of climate and pandemic showing at the same time. Some of us have little or no immunity to the virus due to our treatment and ride the emotional roller-coaster of cancer as it attacks our bodies and our oncologists try desperately to help prolong our lives.

Can you imagine dreaming up such a scenario of events to hit one single, vulnerable, person all at the same time? To descend upon one concerned and fragile family?

Mental health is a massive issue facing so many of us for so many reasons. Given the scenario of the triple whammy for terminal cancer victims it’s a wonder anyone is strong enough to walk this road at all.

And yet we find our ways – hanging on to say our farewells, battling to complete a task that has kept us motivated and inspired, to keep going for the memory of those parted and in support of those left.

The human spirit is indeed a wondrous thing to be both celebrated and marvelled at.

Ally McLaws is managing director of the McLaws Consultancy, specialist in business marketing and reputation management. All back copies of this column are available at

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992