Every Christmas after Mass, Frank McGarvey's family would gather at his home on the outskirts of Glasgow for an annual tradition that still makes his children laugh.

"He loved us all going up, but he'd put out this buffet and we'd slag him every year because it was just so random," said Jenny Kane, the former Celtic's star's only daughter and the youngest of his four children with ex-wife, Pauline.

"There would be a bottle of beer, a Hooch, a Bacardi Breezer, a bottle of rum, a half-drunk bottle of red wine, a carton of orange juice, then there'd be cocktail sticks with cheese and pineapple - talk about back in the day - pakora, three quarters of a quiche left over from the night before, chips, fish fingers. Random stuff.

"We still talk about it: 'Dad's Christmas buffet'."

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This Christmas, Mrs Kane and her brothers - Paul, Sean and Scott - face their first festive season without their beloved father, who died aged 66 in the early hours of New Year's Day just weeks after being diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

Mrs Kane, 36, has spoken to our sister title The Herald for the first time about her father's missed symptoms and the traumatic weeks leading up to his death to raise awareness of the disease, in the hope that others can be diagnosed earlier.

But she also wants to pay tribute to a "charismatic" and "larger than life" figure who was capped for Scotland, scored over 100 goals for Celtic, and even played opposite Maradona, but whose family meant the world to him.

"He'd pop round to my house most days without warning," said Mrs Kane, who has three daughters aged five, two and four-month-old Francesca 'Frankie', named after her late grandfather - who predicted she would be a girl.

"He loved my girls - he'd be flinging them up in the air, causing havoc, getting them all excited. Lots of laughter.

"He had eight grandchildren and they were everything to him - forget his football, they were everything."

Glasgow Times: Being a grandfather 'was everything' to Frank McGarvey, said his daughterBeing a grandfather 'was everything' to Frank McGarvey, said his daughter (Image: Jenny McGarvey)

As a child, Mrs Kane - whose godfather was Celtic legend Tommy Burns - remembers raucous get togethers at the family home.

"My Dad was good pals with Charlie Nicholas, 'Packie' Bonner, Tommy Burns - and they knew how to party.

"Every weekend it was our house and we'd all sneak up at night to try to get into the party. I remember you were allowed in if you could sing a song - that social side of things, that was really nice."

In later years, Mr McGarvey worked as a joiner - laying the floorboards at his daughter's home - and lived in Burnside, Rutherglen, where he was known to indulge in a breakfast ice cream cone at his local café.

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He regularly walked the two miles to his daughter's home in King's Park, played five-a-side football, and "cycled everywhere".

His illness came out of the blue.

"He was so fit - I never would have imagined it," said Mrs Kane.

Her father's symptoms began in Spring 2022 with mysterious chest pain which he initially blamed on having being struck by a car door.

As it spread to his back, he lost his appetite and began losing weight.

GPs diagnosed indigestion but, as symptoms persisted, took blood tests for helicobacter - a common bacteria which can lead to gastric ulcers.

Glasgow Times: Jenny Kane, pictured with her father on her wedding dayJenny Kane, pictured with her father on her wedding day (Image: Jenny McGarvey)

Mrs Kane, from Glasgow, said the process was complicated by long waits for a face-to-face appointment and the surgery's reliance on locums, which meant her father had no consistent doctor.

"I felt like we were just getting palmed off," she said.

"They were not taking any of this seriously until it came to the summer time by which time I was ferociously emailing the doctor's week after week to say 'look, someone has to take this seriously'.

"By that time my Dad had lost two stone in the space of two months - surely that's not indigestion?"

In August, Mr McGarvey was taken to A&E in Glasgow with severe chest pains.

An X-ray found signs of inflammation in his sternum but medics gave him the all-clear.

Mrs Kane said: "I sat there and watched the doctor tell him there was nothing wrong with him - 'you're fit as a fiddle, Frank'.

"Yet he was coming to my door every week skinnier and skinnier, not eating, weak, with this constant pain in his chest, and painkillers weren't doing anything.

"This is a man who never took paracetamol in his life - he didn't believe in medication - but he was wanting as much pain relief as he could get."

Mrs Kane and her three brothers were clubbing together to pay for their father to undergo an endoscopy privately when he was finally sent for the procedure on the NHS at the end of September 2022.

A week later he was told he had pancreatic cancer, which had spread to his liver and become incurable.

Glasgow Times: Frank McGarvey makes an emotional address to Celtic fans in October 2022, following his cancer diagnosisFrank McGarvey makes an emotional address to Celtic fans in October 2022, following his cancer diagnosis (Image: Newsquest)

In November 2022, doctors ruled out potentially life-prolonging chemotherapy, saying Mr McGarvey was too ill to survive it.

"It was heartbreaking," said Mrs Kane.

"He was so hopeful that he could be the one to beat it, and knowing his character he would have given it a good go."

The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer in the UK is just 7.3% - the lowest for any of the common cancers, and a statistic which has barely changed in 50 years.

With no routine screening programme, early detection relies on symptoms being investigated early.

These can include jaundice, upper abdominal or mid-back pain and discomfort, pale and smelly stools, loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, new-onset diabetes not associated with weight gain, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.

In the final weeks of his life, Mr McGarvey's children took it in turns to care for him round-the-clock with his partner of 14 years, Susan, stepping in at weekends.

Mrs Kane said: "We were all pitching in doing rotas because he couldn't be left by himself. Dad was on all these strong pain meds and no one could get the balance right.

"He was either totally out of it, sleeping for days - then it was the not eating, in pain. The only thing he loved was hot baths - roasting hot baths.

"He was boiling kettles and pots and pouring the water in. It was the only thing that seemed to give him relief.

"Then he was told he wasn't allowed to do that because of his pain patches. It was a terrible time."

After cuts and falls at home and worsening delirium, the family took the difficult decision to move Mr McGarvey into the Kilbryde hospice in East Kilbride in December 2022.

Glasgow Times: Tributes are paid to Frank McGarvey outside Celtic Park on January 2, 2023Tributes are paid to Frank McGarvey outside Celtic Park on January 2, 2023 (Image: Colin Mearns/Herald&Times)

The experience gave his children something to joke about as their father made repeat "escape" attempts.

Mrs Kane said: "I'd get phonecalls during the night to go up to the hospice, he was trying to phone for taxis - it was quite funny.

"In our darkest despair we would have a laugh that he always had the staff on their toes."

Giving the eulogy at his father's funeral in January, Sean McGarvey described a man who had been "brimming with kindness and fun", passionate about everything, and - at the end - someone who "used love and laughter as his fuel".

Mr McGarvey - a striker mentored by Sir Alex Ferguson at St Mirren and briefly Scotland's most expensive footballer when he signed from Liverpool to Celtic in 1980 - clung on for 'extra time' into 2023.

His children, gathered round his bedside, wept and hugged each other when they believed their father had passed away - only for him to draw breath again seconds later, giving them an unexpected moment of levity.

"We were told every day in the hospice that it was his last day, but he hung on and hung on," said Mrs Kane.

"They said to us 'no one's seen anyone fight quite like it'."

This year, the family will go on holiday over the new year and remember Mr McGarvey as they scatter his ashes on one of his favourite beaches.

Mrs Kane, with her late father's blessing, is backing Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland's 'Missed' campaign, which is lobbying to improve early detection by spotlighting the all-too-often "missed" symptoms as well as the loved ones lost to the disease.

She said: "Dad said 'people need to know about this, Jenny - we need to tell people.

"There might be someone else in my shoes who just thinks they have gastroenteritis or indigestion'.

"He was so passionate, and that's why I'll never stop."