Video: Loom bands helped Ipswich mother-of-three recover from major life-saving operation
14:37 12 August 2014
A mother-of-three is gradually rebuilding her life after undergoing major surgery to rid her of a rare form of cancer.
Mel Barron, 43, of Malvern Close, Ipswich, had four months off work as she recovered from the surgery - and says that making loom bands helped take her mind off the trauma of what she had been through.
“Doing the loom bands helped relax me and it helped take my mind off of everything,” she said. “During the last few weeks it kept me occupied while I recovered.”
Mel was first diagnosed with cancer in December 2012.
“I didn’t even have any real symptoms, just a pain around my belly button. I didn’t think much of it but friends at work told me I should go to the doctors.”
Eventually, Mel agreed and after a series of appointments and scans she was told she had pseudomyxoma peritonei, an extremely rare form of cancer that attacks the abdomen.
“It is the slowest growing type of cancer,” she said. “It is non evasive and is a jelly-like substance that lays on top of the organs.”
Doctors kept a close eye on Mel’s condition and in December last year she was offered extensive surgery to remove the cancer.
“It was a scary decision to make because they weren’t saying it was life or death - I could have lived for another 10 years.
“And there was a risk factor involved, I could have died on the operating table or from complications afterwards.”
She added: “I was concerned about the operation because I had been following a Facebook page for the type of cancer I had, it is a worldwide page and only 1,500 people on it -because the cancer is so rare. It only affects one or two people in every million.
“I was following the story of lady in Essex who had the operation and was really poorly afterwards. She passed away while I was in hospital, she was same age as me.”
Surgeons in Basingstoke removed Mel’s spleen, gallbladder, appendix and she had a full hysterectomy.
“There are only two hospitals in the country that offer the treatment, and I was referred there from Ipswich.
“They removed any organs that I didn’t need, and scraped it away from those I do need.
“I also had two lots of hot chemotherapy, where they heat up the chemo and pour it into you during the operation, leave it for a while and drain it off.”
She spent four months at home recovering and it was during this time that she got hooked on the playground craze that has swept the nation this summer.
“My 13-year-old son Christian asked me to get him some looms, so I went to Toys R Us to pick them up.
“There was a woman stood there looking, so I asked her about the kits and which one to buy. She told me which kit she had bought to start with, and told me she did them all the time.
“She was a similar age to me, so I thought I would try them out.”
Putting her operation behind her, Mel threw herself into her new project and made bracelets, and small figures including pandas and dragon flies.
“Someone sent me a link to a nativity scene and said ‘here is your next challenge’ so I watched a YouTube video and started making my own. I have made baby Jesus in a manger and I am hoping to complete the whole scene by Christmas.”
Mel has now returned to work as a payroll clerk at Sainsbury’s in Warren Heath on a part-time basis, gradually increasing her hours.
“It was a shock when I went back,” she said. “I am clear now but I will need to take penicillin for rest of my life, and I will need to be monitored.”
Visit http://www.pseudomyxomasurvivor.org/ for more on the illness