Mel O'Neill is a mum of two from Penketh living with breast cancer.

She writes a regular blog for the Warrington Guardian.

Here, she gives her thoughts on celebrating her 50th birthday.

Who’d have thought I’d be celebrating my 50th birthday with stage IV incurable cancer yet without a cancer cell in sight?  Not me.  I feared my own death too many times that I care to remember yet here I am to tell the tale.

I feel privileged to share my birthday today, March 8, with International Woman’s Day aiming to make a difference to every woman (and man) I come into contact with and get to tell my story.

After writing for the Warrington Guardian for many years online about my journey with inflammatory breast cancer, I unknowingly gained quite a following. Helping me to unload my mental torture whilst helping others who were relating so much to every word written, I still to this day keep getting approached when I’m out in Warrington by strangers thanking me for helping them through a turbulent time in their life too.

This is why I felt compelled to write this blog and let you know how things are going.

Just to update anyone reading this who doesn’t know my story, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast cancer in May 2011 after being misdiagnosed by 9 different medical professionals for over 5 months.  Only then discovering how rare this form of breast cancer actually was, presenting itself with a red mark on my left breast that rapidly swelled along with the redness spreading, leaving me with a heavy dull ache and itching sensation, I found myself turning to the internet for answers as no one was listening to me.

After my initial treatment of chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiotherapy, then more chemotherapy, I was informed that the IBC had now spread to the lymphatic vessels of my skin making me a stage IV incurable patient. 

As I continued to explore alternative treatments alongside my medical route, I also continued writing. Allowing myself to type out all the mental pain and torture I was enduring when every chemo stopped working. Numerous operations failed, losing hope in trying many different diets all claiming to kill cancer, losing faith in spiritual healers, mentally destroyed by alternative therapies such as cannabis oil and sipping many different lotions and potions believing to be my cure.

After 9 ½ years on constant (more or less) chemo, I took a break from chemo to get the ridiculous amount of pain from mouth ulcers under control.  I never returned to taking the chemo as the IBC in my skin miraculously vanished and my scans continue to be clear. I was asked to remain on the anti-cancer drug Herceptin in order to remain cancer free.  Choosing to stop all medical treatment in November 2022, I am happy to announce that I am still cancer free. Having 3 monthly blood tests revealing my cancer markers are rock bottom and 6 monthly CT scans that remain clear as a bell.

Warrington Guardian:

I whole heartedly believe that I was my own cure.  That chemo, operations, radiotherapy and all the alternative therapies I invested an untold amount of time and money in (thanks to the Rainbow Ball donations) were there to help prolong my life long enough for me to realise I had the magic wand all along.

I now love and respect myself and follow my own instincts, not wanting to be liked or gain respect by choosing to follow others.  I now follow me, I do it for me.  It has made me a better person in the sense that I am grateful for everything that is in my life. I’m grateful for every day I get to breathe and smile. I’m grateful I have seen my daughters grow up, leave high school, for every milestone they have reached so far and for the life lessons I have been able to teach them.

I, myself am currently thriving.  I am thriving on life, albeit diagnosed as partially sighted, with lymphedema, reoccurring mouth ulcers and neuropathy in my toes. This is all due to excessive chemo and a brain injury in tow making me so forgetful, yet I remind myself that there are plenty of people worse off than me and I still get to do all the things I love.

My life just keeps on getting better and better and I am so proud that my story has a happy ending when so many others in real life, films and books don’t.

I have no magic wand for anyone else going through any medical condition only my own story to tell.  Everyone is unique and I believe everything happens for a reason.  So my advice is this.  Ask yourself what’s your reason?  Take away the fear and listen to your body.  What and why is it screaming at you?

And lastly as I’m off to continue with my birthday celebrations, know this, you get to choose.  Choose your best life.  Live like there’s no tomorrow because tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.