Ally holds tight to joy of living despite terminal diagnosis

Ally Gourlay and Alistair Cameron with signed tops for the charity dinner in aid of Maggies
Ally Gourlay and Alistair Cameron with signed tops for the charity dinner in aid of Maggies

Given just months to live, Ally Gourlay has earned huge respect and affection for adopting the most remarkably positive

approach to his life. A great Rovers’ man, he is now helping Maggie’s Fife at a special dinner in his honour...

Ally Gourlay is living with a diagnosis of terminal cancer at the age of just 51. He is also living life to the full.

The popular chairman of Raith Rovers’ Former Players Assciation, member of the Hall of Fame organising team and a well known face on the local music and radio scene, has adopted a hugely positive attitude which has impressed his many friends.

And, later this month, he will be the very special guest at a dinner which will help raise funds for Maggie’s Fife.

Ally was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in March and told it was inoperable.

But the broadcaster, who also hosts his own show ‘Art School Dancing’ on community radio station K107, is determined to live life to the full in the time he has left and to “laugh at cancer”.

He said: “The way I look at it is, cancer doesn’t respect anybody, so why should I respect it?

“I’ll live life as much as I can and deal with the illness when the worst of it comes along.”

Ally first noticed he was having trouble swallowing just before Christmas.

“I went to the doc in January thinking it was an infection. They took some blood tests which were fine, but also sent me for an endoscopy which showed a blockage.

“On the Monday before the Ramsden’s Cup final I got a phone call asking me to go to the surgery where they told me it was cancer of the oesophagus.”

A second endoscopy showed that the cancer had spread to lymph nodes which were impossible to operate on and that his condition was terminal.

Ally said: “I asked how long I had left and they told me a matter of months.

“It’s a really strange feeling. I felt OK with the information but trying to tell anyone else I just kept bursting into tears.”

After talking it through with his family Ally has decided against a course of chemotherapy.

“They told me about all the possible side effects and when I asked them how much longer that would give me they said about four or five months, so I thought it wasn’t worth it.

“To me it’s quality over quantity. What’s the point in going through chemo a possible six sessions over roughly 18 weeks, and feeling ill all through that? I just don’t feel it’s the right thing for me, and my family are backing me all the way.

“What I have said though, is I don’t want to know the journey.”

Ally says that having a positive attitude is helping him to come to terms with living with cancer, and setting himself small targets.

His first one is a sportsman’s dinner on June 29, organised by his friends on the Hall of Fame team. It takes place at the Gilvenbank Hotel, Glenrothes, but every seat has already been snapped up - it sold out within two days,

Ally has decided that the proceeds from the auction will be donated to Maggie’s Fife - a place he has visited for advice and support.

Up for grabs are a signed Scotland football top from team boss Gordon Strachan, a shirt signed from the current Arsenal cup winning side and a Rovers shirt which has been signed by the pundits at Sky Sports, with another surprise item coming from Bill Leckie at The Sun.

“Alistair Cameron and Willie MacGregor who have been organising the event have been brilliant,” said Ally. “All my friends and family have.

“The support from Raith Rovers is also phenomenal. They’ve told me to do what hours I can and they’ll work round around me.

“I’m seeing people I haven’t seen for ages, I’m out all the time ... I should have done this year’s ago!

“This might sound like a strange thing but I think having cancer has been a blessing.

“I’ve experienced a feeling of euphoria, and whenever I talk to someone about having cancer it comes back.

“I’m seeing things more vividly now and realise that the day to day stuff that we all worry about don’t seem so bad, they’re just temporary - you’ll work through them.

“I’m seeing things much more positively. I smelled rain on the grass the other day and it was just so beautiful. The wonders of everything, I take it all in now. I’ve got time that others haven’t had.

“People who’ve had a heart attack or a brain haemorrhage haven’t had the time I have to say goodbye and tell people that I love them. I’m very lucky.”

Ally knows that he will start to find the general day to day harder but says he has no fears, and lashings of humour - some of it dark and of the ‘gallows’ variety - have helped too.

“I want to be here for the Hall of Fame in November, though Willie has assured me that I’ll be there one way or another, whether it’s me or an urn!

“The illness is going to take its toll - that’s the downside - but the upside is that I’ve got all this time to focus on the important things, and you can’t buy that sort of gift.

“Anyway I’m not going anywhere until Rovers get back into Europe - so I’ll be here for quite some time yet!”