When doctors told Jim Duff he had cancer, their forecast of his chances was brutal.
The 62-year-old was informed he had no hope of surviving mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos dust at work 30 years before.
He survived for just six months and spent his last few weeks in agony.
Now his widow, Rhona, is helping a campaign to raise awareness of a disease that experts believe remains a deadly timebomb for thousands.
It is likely that Jim, who died in 2007, developed the worst kind of cancer caused by asbestos after breathing in the killer dust while working in the civil service at RAF Pitreavie.
Jim and his colleagues were oblivious to the deadly dangers around them.
Rhona, 59, of Rosyth, Fife, said: “There was work being done on the building and dust was everywhere.
“They used to throw it about like snowballs because they had no idea about the dangers.
“In fact, until Jim’s diagnosis I had never even heard of mesothelioma.
“It is certainly something I know all about now. Because of it, Jim suffered the kind of horrible death that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“All it takes is for someone to breathe in one tiny speck and 30 years later they get a diagnosis like this.”
Jim first starting worrying there might be something wrong when he developed a constant cough.
To begin with, doctors prescribed medicine for coughs, colds and chest infections, but they eventually sent him for X-rays. Rhona said: “He just couldn’t seem to get any air in his lungs, but doctors kept saying it was a cold.
“When he got the X-ray, everything just took off.
“There are no early-warning signs so it was only when the cough began that we had any idea that there was something the matter.
“Then they thought it was fluid on the lung. But when Jim went in to get it drained, they did further tests and were finally able to tell us it was mesothelioma.”
Obviously, the diagnosis was a hammer blow to Jim, Rhona and their son, Andrew, 32.
To be then told there was no cure and that Jim was, in fact, dying was even harder to take.
Rhona said: “When we came out, Jim said he needed to go to the toilet and I could hear him in the cubicle just crying his eyes out.
“When we got home, he dumped his jacket on the ground, sat in the chair and just continued to weep.
“I went upstairs to get Andrew. When he came down, he just cuddled into his dad and they both cried together.
“I tried not to show it as I was trying to be strong for him, but I was in tears with him, too. I think he had an inkling it was cancer, but this was even worse than he had feared.”
When Jim was first diagnosed, Rhona said he looked the same as ever. But just a couple of months later, the disease had started to take its toll.
Rhona said: “He really started to deteriorate. Once it took hold, he went downhill really quickly.”
By Christmas 2006, four months after his diagnosis, Jim could no longer walk.
His morphine dose was increased every week to cope with the pain.
It would get so bad Jim couldn’t sleep lying down and needed to be propped up with pillows.
Rhona said: “We just didn’t know what to do except take each day as it came. For all we knew, he could die at any point.”
As Jim’s health worsened, Rhona and her son took it in turns to care for him.
Rhona did days and Andrew took the night shift.
Jim was given radiotherapy in a bid to reduce the pain and stop the tumour growing. But it didn’t work and, as it got bigger, its weight pulled down on Jim so he was always bent to the side.
By this point, he also needed help getting dressed and washed and had to have someone with him at all time.
He had no appetite and all he could manage was a little milk or juice from a baby’s beaker because he was shaking so much.
Rhona said: “The illness just completely took over.”
One night, Jim tried to get out of bed himself and fell and hit his head.
He was taken to Queen Margaret Hospice in Dunfermline where he died a few days later.
Rhona said: “He was still aware of what was happening and didn’t want to go.
“His wish had been to die at home, but it just couldn’t happen. By that point, we didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t believe it but once he was in the hospice I took a night off because I knew his sister had gone up to see him.
“Incredibly he was sitting up in bed laughing and joking like the old Jim and I had missed it.
“The next day I got a phone call saying Jim was deteriorating and he died that night.
“He slept all the way through it. I was sitting watching his stomach go up and down with his breath.
“Then one time it went down and simply never came back up again and that was him gone.
“He would have been 63 the next day.
“I miss the laughs and the good times we had together.”
Mesothelioma is now attacking a whole generation of people who may have been exposed to asbestos between 20 and 40 years ago.
Story from Daily Record July 2009