Friends of an Adelaide family have rallied together to help complete a dream backyard project that was left unfinished when a 36-year-old father died from bowel cancer.
Six years before his diagnosis, Russell Cranwell noticed blood in his stools but was told by doctors it was the result of haemorrhoids.
In September 2022, he began experiencing abdominal pain as well as pain in his testicles, but it was attributed to a sexually transmitted disease, parasites and other reasons.
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“He kind of just went through that for a couple of months, having excruciating pain, passing nothing but blood and mucus,” his wife Rachel Cranwell said.
When the pain became intolerable, the family went to the emergency department and, following a colonoscopy, doctors found a 9cm tumour and diagnosed Russell with stage 4 bowel cancer.
“It was causing a complete blockage of his bowel,” Rachel said.
Russell underwent emergency surgery and then chemotherapy, but doctors said the treatment could not cure him.
He was given a prognosis of 12 months.
“We never lost hope in beating the statistics … he was never going to give up,” Rachel said.
“It (treatment) stopped working in August 2023, it progressed further, it started in his spine and then once it started playing a part in nerve pain it was terrible.”
Russell pictured with his wife Rachel and their three daughters. Credit: Supplied
In Christmas 2023, Russell had to explain to his three young children it was very likely he would not be coming home from hospital.
“The six-year-old took it the hardest, just not quite understanding why can’t they fix him,” Rachel said.
In January, Rachel left the hospital to go home to see her children, aged six, four and two years old, when she got a phone call from Russell’s father that she should come back because Russell was not doing well.
The father of three died before Rachel, his childhood sweetheart, made it back to hospital on January 4, 2024.
“One of the nurses said he probably had too much strength in the room when I was with him in there,” Rachel said.
“I’ve never lived my adult life without him. I think the hardest thing for me is I don’t have him to talk to, tell him the stories of the day and do all of those things you take for granted,” she said.
Just before he was diagnosed, Russell, who was a cabinetmaker, began a massive ‘dream’ project to renovate the outside of the family’s home in Sheidow Park, in Adelaide’s south.
Russell had an unfinished project to create a dream backyard for this family – now his friends are determined to complete it. Credit: Supplied
“He grew up in lots of different houses, so he just wanted the girls to have a house they would never have to leave,” Rachel said.
Russell worked on the project through his treatment but wasn’t able to finish the renovations before he died.
Following his death, Rachel’s friend set up an online fundraiser to help the family complete the remaining work.
It’s so far raised almost $30,000 of the total $100,000 goal, to obtain materials and finish the remaining work.
“It’s been mind-blowing the support we’ve had,” Rachel said
“We’ll be doing it no matter what, the $100,000 is going to make it a lot easier on me because I don’t really have any spare cash anymore.”
“It’s going to make such a huge difference to us immediately because there’s not going to be that stress or worry.”