THIS Saturday marks World Cancer Day 2023, with this year’s theme being unison and action – something three support workers from national learning disability charity Hft are very familiar with following Mel Hedges’ leukaemia diagnosis just two years ago. Since then, they have tirelessly worked in unison to support Mel and recently won an award celebrating their dedicated support.
In May 2021, Bedfordshire-born Mel, who is supported by Hft, suddenly started to feel ill and noticed some bruising on her stomach. As a precaution, she had to go to Bedford Hospital for a bone marrow biopsy, the results of which later confirmed Mel had leukaemia.
Mel shares her story and what happened next:
“After the news, I was moved to Addenbrookes Teenage Cancer Ward in Cambridge. I felt bad and I was scared but Julia Albert and the manager of the service where I live, Ian Earey, came with me. After lots of blood tests, I found out I had AMPL leukaemia – acute promyelocytic leukaemia.
“I had lots of treatment and stayed in hospital until late June. After that, I had to keep going back for months for more treatment a few times a week.
“Eventually, the doctor told me I was getting better. I had my very last chemo treatment in March 2022 and in April, almost a year after the diagnosis, I got the all-clear.
“My results showed I beat cancer! And I’m alright now!”
Throughout all of this, Mel was continuously supported by support workers Louise Taylor-Burton, Julie Grinham and Shannon Jarrett with regular hospital visits, multiple bone marrow biopsies and countless journeys to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.
In recognition of their dedication to Mel, the trio recently won the Best Life Possible award at Hft’s 60th-anniversary celebrations. The award is dedicated to those who set the standard in supporting amazing outcomes for the people supported by the charity, going above and beyond their day job to make a real difference towards Hft’s ultimate goal for adults with learning disabilities – achieving the best life possible.
Their nomination reads:
“When Mel was diagnosed with leukaemia, it was a real shock. Louise, Shannon and Julie pulled together to ensure she had proper continuity of care, familiarising themselves with her treatment plan and communicating her needs to other professionals and staff.
“Their actions meant the treatment, care and support she received were excellent. They went above and beyond, driving many hours to and from appointments, in the ever-changing Covid-19 context, and managed the impact on their own emotions, always putting Mel first.
“They did this by working very closely together to make sure all Mel’s treatments were supported. By ensuring continuity of care, they played a clear role in delivering the best possible outcome for her in that situation.”
Mel was also supported by her friends, some of whom are also supported by Hft. One of them, Linda Tysoe, wanted to show her support by raising money for the cancer ward in Cambridge and, despite some initial setbacks due to Covid-19 restrictions, finally was able to run a bake sale in support of Mel, raising over £100 for the ward.
Now, Mel is cancer-free and is still reaping the benefits of being supported by friends and staff at Hft.