The wife of Portlethen dad-of-two Iain McGettrick has paid tribute to her “selfless” husband who has died following a terminal cancer diagnosis aged just 38.
“He was a rare person who got on with everyone,” said Jenna McGettrick. She says she’s now drawing comfort from all those sharing memories of accountant Iain, who grew up in Elgin.
She also hopes telling Iain’s story will leave a lasting legacy for her young children of just how much their dad loved them.
Elgin to Aberdeen
Iain was born on March 20 1985 in Aylesbury, England, to John and Diane McGettrick.
Younger brother of John, and a twin to Stewart, they moved to Elgin as children.
Iain attended Elgin High School before moving on to Robert Gordon University to study accounting and finance.
It was then, while they were both working part-time in Asda, Garthdee, that Iain met 17-year-old Jenna Taylor.
Two years her senior, Iain was invited to Jenna’s 18th birthday party by her friend.
“That was the night Iain and I started dating,” said Jenna.
Together ever since, Iain proposed to law and management graduate Jenna in November 2009.
They planned their wedding for two-and-a-half years later, tying the knot at Craigiebuckler Church before hosting a reception at Norwood Hall.
“It was so lovely, just the way we imagined it. Though it was tinged with sadness because a month after we got engaged Iain’s mum passed away due to breast cancer,” said Jenna.
After an “incredible” honeymoon in the Maldives the couple returned to begin building a life together in Portlethen.
Aberdeen and Liverpool football fan Iain worked hard in his career, which began at Hall Morrice in Aberdeen. There Iain qualified as a chartered accountant.
Later opportunities took him to the Reservoir group, ROVOP, Ramco then Hutcheon Mearns.
In April 2015 Iain became a father when firstborn Luke arrived, followed by Olivia in December 2016.
“Iain was such a great dad,” said Jenna. “He would always celebrate their achievements but was most proud of who the kids were becoming.
“He was so proud, and would just beam, knowing they were kind and well-mannered children. Family was everything to Iain.”
It was a huge source of joy for Iain that Luke, “an introvert like his mum” was quietly coming out of his shell, and that Olivia – who had to endure multiple surgeries as an infant, was brimming with confidence and doing so well as a dancer.
‘Something is wrong’
In summer 2021, just months before Iain would also lose his dad to cancer, Jenna encouraged her husband to see a doctor.
“He was really itchy. I remember telling him if I had been that itchy when I was pregnant I’d have to tell a midwife right away. When he became jaundiced it was clear something was wrong.”
An ERCP procedure identified problems with his liver and bile duct.
A tiny 15mm tumour was also found.
“We got a call a few weeks after our ninth wedding anniversary to say it was cancer.”
Caught early, doctors suggested “watchful waiting” and no action was taken.
The following summer, in August 2022, he became ill with sepsis and was admitted to hospital.
“He recovered, though with hindsight we wonder if that’s what accelerated the cancer,” Jenna said. “By that December he felt great. Actually it was the best he had felt in ages.”
Following a repeat scan in January 2023, however, they found out the cancer had spread.
“He started chemotherapy in March and in typical Iain fashion he remained positive, but he wasn’t naive, having lost both parents to cancer.
“We were told it would prolong his life, rather than cure it,” added Jenna.
“He never, ever, asked for a time frame. I think to protect his – and my – mental health.”
Sadly, by autumn last year his prognosis changed.
“We knew Iain was terminal in October. He said he knew he wouldn’t make it to 50. Neither of us imagined he wouldn’t see 40.”
Caring for their family
Determined to “be with his kids” for as long as possible Iain began alternative treatments including Mistletoe Therapy.
“This tiny thing that started in his bile duct eventually spread to his lungs, abdomen, spleen, liver, pancreas and bones,” said Jenna. “Towards the end he was in incredible pain.”
Juggling busy family life and supporting Iain, Jenna also began a new job.
“It was a really horrible kind of limbo knowing that a day was coming when I would be the sole breadwinner for the family.
“It’s something I had to do, to provide for our children.”
‘Time was running out’
The couple started making plans for one last family holiday to Disneyland Paris but just before Christmas Iain ended up in hospital.
“He was becoming so exhausted and sleeping so much. We couldn’t figure out if it was all the drugs wearing him down or the condition itself.
“It was suggested he go to Roxburghe House on January 9 to try and get a handle on the pain. The hope was that if we could sort that out he may settle, and we’d have more time.
“I think I knew in my heart our time was running out.”
Telling the children
Just days later Jenna found out Iain may only have weeks left to live.
“In October they said maybe a year… to weeks, maybe even days, by January.
“It was devastating. I’ve been with Iain for more than half my life. It was just so hard to come to terms with.”
Knowing the urgency of the situation Jenna had to break the news to eight-year-old Luke and seven-year-old Olivia.
“Until then, all they knew was that Iain was poorly. I sat them down and had to tell them daddy was going to die.
“Olivia put her hands over her ears and started screaming. Luke started crying. And they both asked me if I was going to marry someone else.
“Nothing can prepare you for seeing how much pain your words can cause your children. It was heartbreaking.”
‘Daddy’s watching from heaven’
Over the next two weeks, the children were able to visit their dad in Roxburghe House.
Never saying goodbye, they simply ended each visit with “night daddy, we love you”.
Luke McGettrick with his dad Iain, who loved to take the kids go-karting.After a week with Jenna by his side day and night, Iain passed away on January 23.
“I picked the kids up from school and had to tell them Iain was gone.
“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” said Jenna.
“They’re doing okay. Or as well as you’d expect really. Olivia keeps telling me it will all be okay. She even told me that daddy would be watching her perform in her dance competition from heaven.
“They were everything to Iain.”
A celebration of Iain’s life is to take place on Thursday February 8 at 1pm, in Portlethen Parish Church.
Iain’s employer Hutcheon Mearns expressed sadness at losing Iain following his “defiant battle with cancer”.
Shared on LinkedIn they added: “We will remember him for being tremendously kind-hearted, unwaveringly social and absolutely selfless. It is rare to meet a person that is so well-liked and loved by so many people.”
‘Iain was so loved’
Jenna says she is drawing comfort from how many people have shared stories and memories of Iain.
“I know everyone must think this about their loved ones, but honestly, Iain was a rare person who could got on with, and was so loved by everyone. So many people have been in touch. It’s meant such a lot.
“I just wish more had been done earlier and maybe we would still have him with us.”