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Anguish of BBC's Kerry McClean as dad dies of pancreatic cancer six days after diagnosis

By Lesley Houston

Published 22/03/2016

Kerry and Ralph McLean with their baby daughter Eve
Kerry and Ralph McLean with their baby daughter Eve
Kerry’s father Shaun Turner

BBC presenter Kerry McLean has led tributes to her father who has died just six days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The popular radio star broke the news on social media yesterday when she described the man who had been a game warden in South Africa as a "brilliant" father and the "most amazing" grandfather.

Kerry, who is married to fellow BBC presenter Ralph McLean, also revealed details of her late dad's funeral at their hometown of Ballymoney.

The former civil servant died from a disease which claims the lives of around 200 people in Northern Ireland every year.

It is a difficult illness to diagnose and treat successfully and often has a poor prognosis for sufferers.

Kerry revealed her family's heartbreak on her Facebook page: "Our lovely daddy Shaun Turner passed away last night after a mercifully short battle with pancreatic cancer, just 6 days after diagnosis.

"He was a brilliant husband and father and the most doting and amazing granda who ever walked this earth.

"Our hearts are broken but full to bursting with all the love he gave us day and daily."

She added that her father's funeral was due to take place on Wednesday at St Patrick's Parish in Ballymoney.

Just two years ago Kerry told how she and her husband had moved to the north Antrim town to be closer to her parents.

In the Belfast Telegraph feature she revealed an interesting career her father had once enjoyed, but which he abandoned once he found love at home. "My dad worked in South Africa as a game warden, met my mum on a visit home and never left.

"He's a retired civil servant and mum is a trade unionist, although she was a teacher."

Joking that she'd never won an argument with her mother, she quipped her father was a much softer touch.

"With my dad, though, I could always get what I wanted."

Expressing her sympathy to Kerry's family, Susan Cooke from Dollingstown in Co Armagh knows only too well of the devastating effects of the the disease.

She launched the Northern Ireland branch of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund in 2014, a year after it claimed the life of her husband Colin, at just 45 - 11 weeks after diagnosis.

Together with Omagh woman Kerry Irvine who runs Pancreatic Cancer Action, the pair offer a support group to sufferers and bereaved relatives based at Belfast's Mater Hospital.

"It's a devastating disease and its symptoms are often very vague and often initially missed by some GPs," she said.

"People often don't have the chance to come to terms with the diagnosis before they're dealing with a death.

"We had one family who came to the support group who didn't even know their daughter had died from pancreatic cancer until her postmortem."

She lamented the fact that only 88 of Northern Ireland's 1200 GPs have taken up an accredited E-learning course, "Pancreatic Cancer: Early Diagnosis in General Practice", created by the charity in conjunction with the Royal College of General Practitioners.

She also pointed out that only 1% of government research funds are earmarked for study into pancreatic cancer.

The support group takes place at Belfast's Mater Hospital's boardroom on the last Thursday of the month at 6.30pm

Belfast Telegraph

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