Nova Scotia

Singer Raylene Rankin dies of cancer

Raylene Rankin, a member of the internationally acclaimed Celtic band The Rankin Family, has died after a long fight with cancer at the age of 52.

Popular Cape Breton vocalist also had solo career

The Rankins, from left to right: Heather, Cookie, Jimmy and Raylene. (Andrew MacNaughtan/Penticton Herald/Canadian Press)

Raylene Rankin, a member of the internationally acclaimed Celtic-country band The Rankin Family, has died after a long fight with cancer at the age of 52.

Rankin had three bouts of cancer. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, it returned again in 2009. In 2011, she was told the cancer had spread to her liver and she immediately began aggressive chemotherapy.

"I'm scared a lot and just it seems when you get to a place where you're not afraid then you're given a reason to be afraid again," said Rankin in a conversation with CBC in June.

"But it's something that I'm working through. I'm reading one of these books that I'm trying to work with is you know it's about not having a fear of death, which is the ultimate fear, I guess."

That latest cancer diagnosis led Rankin into a mid-life crisis, something she said she just started to get over in the spring.   

"I'm at a place now where I guess I'm just content, I accept the roads I've taken and the roads not taken. And what I've come away from the whole experience with is an appreciation of all those things , all those gifts that have been given to me. My husband, my son, my family my very good friends, the career that I've had that I sort of fell into, just little things like the first crocuses of the spring, the spring light which is different than winter light. All those things I see as little diamonds," said Rankin.

All the Diamonds is the title of Rankin's latest solo CD that was released this year. It was her first solo CD in seven years. Rankin started her music career as a member of The Rankin Family in 1989. The band was made up of Raylene and four of her siblings, all of whom grew up in the small Cape Breton village of Mabou.   

The Rankin Family was together for ten years and sold more than 2 million records, won six Juno awards, three Canadian Country Music Awards and 15 East Coast Music Awards. In 1999 members of the group went their separate ways to pursue different interests.   

The first member of the band died a year later. John Morris Rankin died when the truck he was driving went over a cliff and landed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The remaining members of the group, including Raylene Rankin reunited in 2007. They released a new CD and went on a tour, and followed that up two years later with another new CD and tour.

Raylene Rankin said she always felt protective over her siblings, especially when The Rankin Family became well known.

"I realized that this year, The Rankin Family went out on tour in January I wasn't able to go because I was in the middle of chemo," she said.

"When Cookie and Heather came to visit me just before they were flying out the next day and I cried, I bawled like a baby and I felt like I was letting them down by not being there for them."

Rankin is survived by her husband and son.