May 22nd 2007 – D Day, or rather ‘C-Day’ in the Thomas household…
After 3 years of recurring ear problems caused by a ruptured ear drum, 3 surgeries, 6 grommets, 2 sets of biopsies and one set of perfectly good (but large!) tonsils removed… The great diagnostic minds of the medical profession decided that I did, in fact, have an extremely rare, slow growing, relentless and currently incurable form of cancer. The Big C. Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. ACC for short (and far easier to remember…) .
After an initial consultation with a brilliant Surgeon, a realisation that time was of the essence and surgery was essential, a date was set. July 3rd 2007 came around and at 7am I donned the finest silk (ok, cotton, but lets not split hairs) hospital gown and was carefully wheeled down to theatre where the easy job began. I drifted off to the land of nod for 10 hours – blissful ignorance and peaceful slumber, whilst the deft hands of Peter Clarke and his team of plastic surgeons ensured that the tumour was removed and clear margins were achieved all round. How on earth my family and friends (I am blessed and have MANY) sat and waited for all that time I will never know . What I do know is, out of of everyone involved, I had the easy job that day…
I awoke in ICU on July 4th – Mel’s Independence Day – pain free (some drugs really are good!), wearing a hair band of 50 staples for decoration, sporting a set of Rastafarian dreads, two brain drains in situ and needing a shower! As it turns out the Doctors had to cut into my head (making an incision from ear to ear); give me a face lift by peeling my forehead off; break my jaw and spinn it out; remove some muscle around my temple; stretch various nerves (cutting through a few whilst they were at it!); and very delicately operate around my carotid artery – something that would have resulted in a far shorter surgery should they have damaged it in any way. Safe to say, I’m pleased they didn’t mention most of this before I entered my peaceful slumber…
Two days later and I made my way off the ICU , and after holding court for my fabulous visitors for a few days, I was kicked out of Charing Cross having recovered far quicker than anyone was expecting! I even managed a hair wash before I left (thank GOD….).
After a brief spell at home to rest and allow my head to revert back from resembling The Elephant Man/Chunk from ‘The Goonies’, I embarked on 6 weeks of high dose daily radiation, under the care of the lovely Kevin Harrington at the Royal Marsden Hospital. I lost some hair, my taste buds and most of my energy… but emerged triumphant at the end having survived with a smile – thanks to my amazing support network who saw me through x
A few months later, itching for some normality and with my Doctor’s blessing, I ventured back to London, work and life in general it seemed, got back on track…
Having waited for Prince Charming to show up for numerous years, I eventually tired of waiting and embarked on a summer of fun, frolics and dates via the world of on-line dating. Little did a certain Mr Charlie Jaggard know that 2 weeks later he would strike gold and end up in All Bar One on one fabulous date with moi!… I’m not sure how long a whirlwind takes, but six weeks later and I’d moved from Clapham to Twickenham, we were plotting our future together and life could really not have been rosier. A few months later and unbelievably it did – Charlie asked me to marry him on a bridge overlooking Notre Dame, my fairytale beginning x
Unfortunately fate had a few curve balls left to throw (its OK though, Charlie and I have good hands) and two months later, after a regular scan showed up a few shadows in my lungs, we discovered that the cancer was back and this time had spread far and wide. The cancer has metastasised and was showing itself as loads of little tumours, dotted around the lungs, which now meant they resembled the night sky on a crystal clear night when we looked at the scans. After further consultation, lung capacity tests and additional scanning over the next few months, we realised that whilst the cancer is there, it is currently in an indolent stage – so its growing, yes, but very, very slowly and all things being equal, if it carried on in this manner and with treatments presently available, I have a good 10-15 years to live.
Now, I’m not sure about you… but 10-15 years? Well, its not BAD and definitely better than it could be, but its not something that Charlie and I are prepared to accept, thank you very much. I quite fancy sticking it out for the long haul and making sure Charlie is kept in check!!! So the fight is on. For those of you that don’t know Charlie and me, we are a little bit (read: HUGELY) competitive and like to win. In fact, we always do. So really, this cancer doesn’t know what its taken on, and we fully intend to beat it, 100%, soon.
The fact that we are unbelievably lucky enough to be pregnant, with twins (TWINS!), due in October this year, is even more reason to be single minded about finding a cure. I’m not sure how Charlie would cope 2 against 1!!!
So, with the help of the ACCRF in the States, Get Ahead in the UK, my various Team of truly wonderful Doctors, my now massive and ever increasing support network of family and friends who will never, ever know how crucial they have been in getting me this far and my Husband (there really aren’t words to describe how important he is to me or how inspired I am by him)… we are embarking on JOGLE - John O’Groats to Lands End – in August 2011. The second bike ride Charlie has spearheaded to drive funding into the research agenda that will get us far closer towards a cure… After the amazing efforts of all involved last year, across the riders, support team and followers, over £50,000 was raised – a mind-blowing amount that’s made a marked difference to the research capability here in the UK and a target were keen to exceed this year!
Thank you in advance for your help in getting us there x
HERE ARE SOMRE PHOTOS FROM MEL’S INITIAL TREATMENT – The surgery & radiotherapy (under the guidance of Kevin Harrington)