Man with terminal cancer plans Grim Reaper-themed ‘death party’ for friends

Russ Pegrum has organised an unusual “death party” for this weekend in which family and friends will dress up in grim reaper costumes and enjoy beer and pizza in Waltham Abbey, Herts

A cancer patient who quit chemotherapy to make the most of his final months is planning his own grim reaper-themed “death party” and says he’s the “happiest” he’s ever been.

Russ Pegrum, 48, has organised the unusual wake for this weekend, when family and friends will dress up in grim reaper costumes and enjoy beer and pizza.

Russ was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2018. He quit chemotherapy in September to enjoy his final days, after doctors said he likely had just months to live.

The former factory worker, who has a 9cm tumour, doesn’t know if he’ll reach his next birthday in March.

But Russ said that he is “the happiest” he’s “ever been” after organising his own wake and even picking out a coffin for his funeral.

The Waltham Abbey, Essex, man said: “I’ve called it my ‘death party’.

“It sounds a bit morbid but it’s making light of it and having a bit of fun.

“I’m wearing a shirt with skulls on it. One friend has bought a grim reaper costume.

“I’ve got people coming from school days and people I haven’t seen for 30 odd years.”

Russ’ cancer went into remission in March but tragically it returned three months later, prompting him to begin another round of chemotherapy.

By September, doctors told him there was nothing more to be done.

At this point, Russ opted to quit his treatment, which had left him “staring at the walls at home”.

He lost 27kg during his cancer treatment and now needs a wheelchair to travel long distances.

Russ, who lives with mum Brenda and dad Laurence, said he feels “100 times better” since deciding to stop the chemotherapy.

“Since quitting chemo I’ve learnt to enjoy my life,” he added.

“These have been among the happiest months of my life.

“Planning a funeral is a fairly unusual experience but it’s given me peace of mind.

“I’ve picked out the coffin and music, and written my own eulogy. I found it quite enjoyable really.

“When the time comes everything will be how I’d like it to be.”