A HEARTBROKEN Alloa mum was leading the charge against cancer at the weekend in memory of her daughter who died from the disease.

Brave local Petrina Williams was chosen to ring the bell and send off more than 1,000 runners at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life in Stirling on Sunday, May 12.

Her only daughter, Melissa McIntosh, died aged just 26 in 2012 and Petrina has since been leading a fundraising team called Mel’s Belles, dedicating every step to her memory.

Petrina said: “Melissa is never far from my thoughts and there are so many things I miss about her.

“I miss her smile, her face and the conversations we used to have. She was a very popular girl, always happy and so caring.”

A former Lornshill Academy pupil, Melissa was a support worker at Struan House when she first became unwell.

Tests revealed she had tumours on her liver and a short four weeks later she passed away on October 11, 2012, which came as an absolute hammer-blow to family and friends.

Petrina continued: “Melissa’s nickname for me was Betty. Some days I still expect to see her running past my window and bouncing in with the words, ‘put the kettle on Betty.’

“It was devastating to lose Melissa so young. Now if Melissa’s story can help stop other families having to go through what we did then I couldn’t be prouder.”

And so Petrina, 61, as well as Melissa’s former school friends as well as pals with whom she had done sports coaching at Clackmannanshire Council, formed their fundraising group in 2013 under the name Mel’s Belles to boost vital research funds, raising more than £2,000 so far.

Petrina said: “Every year we write the same special message on Race for Life signs and pin them to our backs.

“We write: ’When it rains look for a rainbow. When it’s dark look for stars.’

“We always bring purple balloons along as it was Melissa’s favourite colour. Melissa’s friends have been so kind to me since she died.

“A few of Melissa’s friends have got married since her death and I have felt honoured to be invited to their weddings. They’re a lovely bunch of girls and I’m so lucky to still be part of their lives.”

The weekend’s event started at the University of Stirling with people choosing between 5k and 10k courses.

The Race for Life series, in partnership with Tesco, is suitable for all fitness levels as it is not about breaking records, it is about beating caner.

Lisa Adams, spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK in Scotland, said: “We’d like to thank Petrina and everyone who came along to make the Race for Life Stirling so special.

“Our Race for Life events are fun, colourful, emotional and uplifting.

“They help people with cancer by raising money for research, including clinical trials which give patients across Scotland access to the latest treatments.”