15 May 2020. Not even four weeks ago. That is the date Cairns mum, Melissa Nielsen, 39, discovered she was dying of terminal brain cancer.
On Wednesday, 10 June 2020, she passed away.
She had just 26 days to say goodbye to her friends, her family, her co-workers, her community, her husband, and her three children.
‘We lost her insanely fast’
Melissa was a busy mum to three beautiful children – Harrison, 10, Jasmine, 8 and Edison, 4. She was a prominent lawyer, a valued member of the Cairns community, a loving wife, and a constant at her children’s activities and school events. Yes, life was hectic, but Melissa made it look easy. She was bright, bubbly and the life of the party, no matter where she went.
Then came a shock diagnosis – Melissa had an aggressive brain tumour known as glioma. Gliomas account for 70 percent of inoperable tumours. Her diagnosis was terminal.
According to neurologist, Dr Don M Long, “Malignant gliomas still are dangerous tumours and most patients will not survive them beyond a few years.”
It progresses quickly but no one was prepared for just how quickly they would lose Melissa.
“She called me about two weeks ago after she was diagnosed as terminal,” friend, Trent Twomey told The Cairns Post.
“From the time she was diagnosed to the time we lost her was insanely fast.”
“We thought she had up to two years,” Melissa’s aunt, Linda Huey said. “It wasn’t even three weeks. The family was obviously shocked – she went downhill on Sunday, the family knew it was coming but they are still in shock.”
Mel’s final message
The heartbreak of having to say goodbye to your children is unthinkable. There are no words, really. But, in her final days, Melissa found the words to reflect on her life and express her final wishes for her children.
I have lived a very blessed life; I married the man of my dreams, have three vivacious, gorgeous children, a purposeful career and have the best friends and family a girl could ask for.”
I have every faith in the village I have created for my children. Please look out for my babies and keep them in your village.
Be sure to talk about their mum often.
Let them know I lived life to the fullest and had fun wherever I went.”
Our hearts go out to Melissa’s family and friends. She will be greatly missed.
Brain cancer facts and figures
Melissa isn’t the first mum to lose her battle with brain cancer and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2017 Melbourne mum Sara Chivers passed away after a long fight against brain cancer. Just six months later, her toddler son, Alfie, also died from brain cancer.
In 2016, there were 1439 deaths in Australia caused by brain cancer. The five-year survival rate is just 22 percent.
Headaches are often the first symptom of a brain tumour but other symptoms include:
- difficulty speaking or remembering words
- disturbed vision, hearing, smell or taste
- seizures: severe (e.g. a convulsion) or mild (a fleeting disturbance of awareness, sensation or jerking muscles)
- weakness or paralysis in part of the body
- loss of balance
- general irritability, drowsiness or a change in personality
- nausea and vomiting
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your GP. Please don’t ignore them.