A woman with an extremely uncommon and aggressive form of cancer says she’s determined to use the time she has left in a positive way.
Chichester mum-of-two Mel de Lacy had always been fit and healthy when, in October 2016, a tumour ‘the size of a small football’ was found in her lung and she was given 12 to 18 months to live.
The 48-year-old triathlete’s ‘world burst’ when she was diagnosed with sarcoma, a highly uncommon bone and soft tissue cancer.
“I didn’t know if I would make it through last Christmas, I was extremely poorly, so this one is like a bonus really,” Mel said.
Uncommonly in the case of sarcoma, Mel responded well to treatment and chemotherapy shrunk the tumour in half.
She was able to get back to running in March, even completing the Chichester Half Marathon in October with a friend.
However she was then told the cancer had progressed and further treatment would have limited benefit.
Mel and husband Matt made the heartbreaking decision to tell their children, who are aged 15 and ten, her condition was terminal.
And in the last few weeks she has ‘gone public’ telling friends her prognosis and is now busy organising events to raise awareness for the little known about cancer.
Physiotherapist Mel, who ran her clinic in Chichester for 20 years, said: “I don’t know how long I have left and I don’t want to know.
“I have decided to use my time in a positive way to raise awareness and funds for Sarcoma UK and Southampton General Hospital.
“I’m just taking it a day at a time and making each one matter.”
Nearly 100 friends have already signed up to run the Chichester 10k on February 4, 2018 for the charity and on New Year’s Day she is hosting a soup walk around Goodwood, one of her family’s favourite spots.
Mel’s cancer wasn’t picked up when she had a hysterectomy in 2010.
Removed fibroids were incorrectly diagnosed as benign, meaning she has been living unaware with a spreading cancer for several years before shortness of breath left her unable to run and then even walk last year.
She thought it was a chest infection before she collapsed while walking her dog and an X-ray revealed a massive tumour was squashing her wind pipe.
“An early diagnosis could have led to a different outcome for me,” Mel said.
“Sarcoma is a type of cancer where early diagnosis is crucial because it’s so difficult to treat, the tumour has to be removed, so without catching it early the chances of survival are poor.
“Most people haven’t heard of sarcoma and that’s why I want to raise awareness of it, not just amongst women but amongst medical professionals as well.”
Mel described 2017 as an ‘amazing year’ which saw her return to running and work, enjoy family holidays and spend invaluable time with her husband and children.
Telling her story in her ‘Let me be Me’ fundraising page which has raised more than £12,000, Mel said: “We had already told the children that I had cancer, that it was inoperable and that treatment would hopefully help to slow it down.
“Two weeks ago we had to tell them that I wouldn’t get better.
“That the treatment possibly wouldn’t help this time and that I would die. No one knew when.
“This was the hardest thing that I had ever had to do and was heart breaking but it is the reason why I feel I can now tell my story.”
Thanking her husband, children and ‘amazingly supportive’ friends and family, Mel said: “I never wanted to be defined by my illness.
“All I wanted since my diagnosis was to just do normal things, to enjoy each day, to laugh and have fun, to do mad and crazy things sometimes.
“And that’s why I am calling this page, ‘Let me be Me.
“The cancer might have changed and shortened my life but it’s never changed who I am; a wife, a mum, a physio, a sister, a daughter, an auntie, a friend.
“I’m choosing to stay strong and positive and I think I am (possibly) one of the fittest terminally ill patients around!”
She added: “Sadly it’s too late for me. However, it’s not too late to help other women to achieve better outcomes.”
Mel has set up two Facebook pages for the fundraising events: Let Me Be Me Chichester 10K and Mel de Lacy Soup Walk.
Read Mel’s full story and donate to Sarcoma UK at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/melsstory
Sarcoma makes up just one per cent of all cancer diagnoses in adults but is more common in children, at 15 per cent in 0-14 year olds and 11 per cent of 15-24 years olds.
Find out more at https://sarcoma.org.uk/