Melena celebrates a new start to her health in 2018

New Year’s Day was a very special occasion for Melena Roughana. The mum of two from Mount Gambier didn’t think she would see out the year but thanks to life-saving treatment, she was able to celebrate the start of 2018 with her family and reflect on the many challenges she has overcome.

Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March, Melena had no idea where her cancer journey would take her.

“The illness started out as a golf ball sized lump in my neck and I was told it was nothing to worry about. My sister eventually sent me to her doctor who discovered a mass on my chest which was pushing on my heart and filling my lungs with fluid. I was then rushed to Ashford Hospital in Adelaide for emergency care.”

On arrival, a biopsy was performed on Melena’s tumour and pathology results confirmed that she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system which forms part of the immune system. Lymphomas arise when developing lymphocytes multiply in an uncontrolled way, causing tumours.

Urgent chemotherapy was required which left Melena with a difficult dilemma.

“My oncologist gave me a choice: I could have 100 hours of intense chemotherapy for 6 days straight or I could opt for 7 hours of chemo which would be less gruelling. The first option had a 97% success rate for the first five years, so I bit the bullet and agreed to it.”

The decision paid off and Melena began to recover after 9 days. Despite her progress, she was still too sick to go home.

“Our family lived five hours away from Adelaide so accommodation was a huge concern. How could I fight for my life if I didn’t know where we would live, or where my children would live?”

That’s where the Leukaemia Foundation stepped in, finding the family a home while Melena underwent the fight for her life.

“I was able to have my children with me. These things gave me great comfort in a time when I was completely lost,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe there was such as amazing facility available to me and my family, at the saddest and most confusing time in my life. The staff were so kind – they felt like angels – giving me a home away from home for however long I would need it, and I was able to have my children and a carer with me.”

During her treatment in Adelaide, Melena lived for her blood tests twice a week. “The blood tests were my guiding light – they helped my doctor keep track of my progress and that encouraged me to keep going.”

Now in remission, Melena is glad to be back home with her two little girls. Although her health has improved, pathology tests still play an important role in her life. “I find it amazing that one blood sample can assess so many different elements of the body from kidney function and cell damage to immunity. As I regain my health, this information is so helpful to me.”