A retired RAF logistics officer for the Red Arrows has spoken for the first time about the pain of losing his wife to cancer.
Pete Mackenzie, from Cupar, is sharing his heart-breaking story of losing wife Suzy as the school she worked at, Leuchars Primary School, starts work on a memorial garden.
He says he is slowly getting used to life without Suzy, after she passed away last summer, but that it has ‘not been easy’.
Suzy died on the last day of the school summer holidays last year, having lost her battle to mouth cancer.
Mum to Simon, 38, and James, 30, Suzy was first diagnosed with cancer in the tongue and neck in 2017.
By December last year she was given the all clear but the cancer returned in her mouth two months later and was diagnosed as terminal six weeks before she died.
Pete, 54, said: “We felt robbed. There were still so many more things to do.
“Suzy was due to retire soon and I was going to take early retirement at 55 – we had been planning our retirement together.
“We only got six weeks after she was told it was terminal. It was next to no time to do anything.”
Despite her illness, Suzy continued to work in the school office until the the last day of term before summer and prepared materials for teachers to use over the holidays.
Pete said: “I tried to get her to take some time off work but she didn’t want to – she was initially told it was treatable.
“She was told she would have to have part of her jaw removed and was preparing for surgery.
“But when they were doing scans for the surgery, doctors saw it had spread to her bones and her lungs.”
In her final weeks, Pete took Suzy around the Highlands visiting places she was fond of there, and to England to visit her mum, sister, and eldest son Simon.
Pete said: “The biggest thing she wanted was to spend her last days at home, I’m glad we were able to give her that.
“She was so proud of the garden we have created here and wanted to spend as much time at home in the garden as she could.”
Pete met Suzy when he was 19 years old and living in Lincolnshire, having been stationed at RAF Scampton.
The following year, in 1990, the pair married in Lincolnshire, where Suzy is originally from.
Six years later Pete took up post at RAF Leuchars and the couple moved to the Fife village.
Pete said: “Suzy loved it there. I was offered appointments in Cyprus and Germany but Suzy wanted to stay in Scotland.
“She loved visiting the Highlands and she loved her job. It took her a while to get used to the slang up here, but she really embraced Scotland and just loved it.”
Suzy’s absence has been felt throughout Leuchars Primary School. Pupils are creating a ‘Resilience Garden’ in her honour.
They held fundraisers to buy materials and flowers – including a purple day where the kids dressed in Suzy’s favourite colour – and received a £5,000 donation from the MOD, at neighbouring Leuchars Station.
Pete, 54, said: “Suzy would be so proud of everything the school has done for her and all the lovely things people have said.
“She was such a caring mum and loving wife. She loved her job and all the kids – she knew them all personally.
“I’ve had former pupils who have left even secondary school get in touch with me to say how much she meant to them.
“It’s sad that something like this has to happened to realise how well she was thought of. I couldn’t talk highly enough of her. I miss her.”