A DYING MUM has taken the agonising decision to stop chemotherapy to make precious memories with her son.
Melissa Lacey, 33, says “quality of life is better than quantity” after going through a harrowing battle with a cancer so rare it affects just one in three million people.
Since being diagnosed with cancer of the appendix last June, Melissa, from Tunstall, Sunderland, has undergone an operation so gruelling it’s been dubbed “the mother of all surgeries” by medics.
So few people have stage four signet ring cell appendix cancer, that the mum-of-one had to travel to a specialist centre in Basingstoke for a 14 hour operation to have a number of organs removed, including three quarters of her small bowel, half of her large bladder and her gall bladder.
The surgery was so extensive, because this type of cancer spreads throughout the abdomen, that surgeons rang her husband Carl, 38, to warn him to expect the worst. Determined to survive, Melissa fought back and after returning home embarked on a course of chemotherapy.
But, after having extreme reactions to the treatment, which left her bed-bound with stroke-like symptoms, she’s chosen to stop the chemotherapy so she can live what life she has left to the full.
Doctors have said Melissa, who is mum to Evan, eight, could have around two years to live.
She said: “This isn’t a decision I’ve made overnight, it’s really tough. But since I was diagnosed with cancer I’ve always said that quality comes over quantity. I want quality time with my little boy, my friends and family.
“This cancer is so rare that’s there’s no guarantee chemotherapy will work and without that guarantee I’ve chosen not to continue. I’ll take two years of quality time over five years lying in hospital, which I have been every weekend since having chemotherapy. It makes my little boy unhappy, and all I want to do is make him happy.
“I still feel fatigued really quickly, the surgery has affected my body so extensively. But at least I can stand in the kitchen for half an hour and make the tea.
“I may only live a few more months, but at least I will be able to make happy memories with Evan.”
Touched by Melissa’s heart-rending story, Sunderland school friends have clubbed together to send her on a dream trip to DisneyWorld.
Michelle Kenney, 33, from Hall Farm, has teamed up with fellow former pupils from Southmoor School to launch Memories for Melissa, a fund-raising page which has so far raised more than £2,000 in 24 hours.
Melissa, who worked as a receptionist at a vets before she became ill, said: “I can’t believe they have done this.
“I cried buckets when I found out, it’s the most wonderful thing anyone has ever done for me.
“ I’ve always wanted to go to Disney. I said DisneyLand in Paris would be enough, but they say they want me to go to DisneyWorld in Florida.
“We would have scrimped and saved every penny to get there ourselves, but it still would have been a dream.
“What they have done has made it a reality and I can’t tell you how humbled and thankful I am for what they have done.”
Melissa’s organs removed through surgery are already being used in research into the rare disease, and she hopes that by sharing her story she can make a difference.
The mum, who moved to Billingham when she married Carl, said: “I just want to raise awareness. It won’t save me, but I want research done that can save someone else.
“People survive breast cancer now, and one day I hope enough research is done to save people from this, so they don’t have to go through what I have.”
l To learn more about a support group for those with a similar condition to Melissa visit www.pseudomyxomasurvivor.org.
l To donate to Memories for Melissa visit www.gofundme.com/memoriesformelissa