When BBC news presenter Rachael Bland and her husband, Steve, found out that her breast cancer was incurable, they opted not to find out how long doctors believed she had to live. But all the same, she spent the rest of her life in a race against the clock, running a blog and a podcast and creating a memoir for her then two-year-old son, Freddie, to remember his mother by.
Rachael’s original diagnosis came in 2016, after which she underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and a mastectomy. The cancer continued to spread despite treatment however, and in 2017 she was told the cancer was not curable.
“I was at the ice cream farm with Freddie and some of his little pals,” Rachael recalls on her blog. “My heart raced as I answered it, knowing a phone call did not bode well. Then came the words, ‘I am so sorry, it’s bad news. The biopsies have come back showing the same cancer is back and is in the skin.’ I watched my little Freddie innocently playing away in a tire in the barn, and my heart broke for him.”
But Rachael continued to work tirelessly on her projects, including that all-important memoir for her son, as she underwent treatment through a clinical trial. She even wrapped 18 gifts to get now three-year-old Freddie through to his 21st birthday.
Sadly, Rachael had even less time than she thought. On September 3, 2018, she was informed that she had just days to live, a devastating and shocking blow for her and her family. She tweeted this shortly after receiving the news:
“In the words of the legendary Frank S – I’m afraid the time has come, my friends. And suddenly. I’m told I’ve only got days. It’s very surreal. Thank you so much for all the support I’ve received. Debs and lozz will continue with the #youmebigc podcast. Au revoir my friends. 💋💋”
At the time, 40-year-old Rachael was thought to have about a week left to live. Instead, she passed away just two days later, on the morning of September 5th, with her family at her side. Later that day, Steve posted this on Twitter:
“Our beautiful, courageous Rachael died peacefully this morning surrounded by her close family. We are crushed but she would want me to thank everyone who took an interest in her story or sent messages of support. You’ll never know how much they meant to her. Steve and Freddie xxx”
“We are all heartbroken and the hole she leaves in our perfect little family will never be filled,” says Steve. “We’ll miss her so very much but we couldn’t be prouder of what she achieved in her 40 years, and we are genuinely comforted by the impact we know she had on so many lives.”
We bid farewell to a brave and strong woman who used the remaining days of her life to love her son and family with all her might and to tell the world about her cancer journey. Rest in peace, Rachael.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?