The heartbroken mum of a young woman battling terminal cancer has paid tribute to her “amazing, brave” daughter.
Sarah Melville has been told she has just months to live after being diagnosed with a rare sarcoma – having already survived a life-threatening bout of meningitis which left her needing her legs and an arm amputated.
Sarah is now doing what no 27-year-old should have to do – planning her own funeral.
But first the family is hoping to raise enough money to send Sarah on a dream trip to Rome before she becomes too ill.
Sarah’s mum Kerry said: “There are no words to describe the pain and emotion that is going through us at the moment.
“I’ve always been able to take care of and protect my children, and now this has been taken out of my hands; there is not a thing I can do but sit and watch my daughter die, it is unimaginable.
“Sarah has had to fight for so long with all the problems she’s had to face and believe me she fought, she is the bravest, strongest person I know but this is one fight she cannot win.”
Former Mossgate Primary School and Heysham High pupil Sarah was initially diagnosed with a rare cancer, synovial sarcoma, in her foot in December 2012.
The tumour was so large it was comparable to a tin of beans.
Sarah has hypochondroplasia – dwarfism – and so has naturally small feet, meaning the tumour covered her foot and made it incredibly painful to walk.
Due to the stage and size of the tumour, the only option was for surgeons to amputate Sarah’s foot.
But then, a week later on Christmas Day, Sarah fell ill and was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia.
The family spent the day saying goodbye to Sarah after being told she was unlikely to survive.
As a result of the disease, Sarah had both her legs amputated and later her right arm, left thumb and other finger tips.
During almost a year in hospital Sarah suffered everything from a stroke to multiple infections and skin grafts.
She was eventually well enough to learn to walk again using prosthetic limbs, and has since been rebuilding her life back at her mum Kerry’s home in Rylstone Drive, Heysham, which was specially adapted with the help of Plastech Windows.
Although she has been unable to work, Sarah had been living as independently as possible, and enjoys swimming and going for walks or shopping in Lancaster, as well as spending time with her younger siblings Corey, 11, and eight-year-old Rosie.
However, just four weeks ago the family was given the devastating news that the sarcoma had returned, and had spread to Sarah’s lungs and right leg.
Sarah has now been given up to three months to live – perhaps less if she picks up an infection.
Sarah, who previously worked in McColl’s convenience store in Oxcliffe Road, said: “It took a while for it to actually kick in that this was it. I think I was at an appointment at the hospital when it finally sank in.
“Now I have accepted that I am going to die and I am dealing with it.
“I am more worried about how mum will cope afterwards. We do everything together.
“I just want to make the most of my time left now. It’s hard because sometimes I wonder what the point is.
“Two months ago I was looking forward to getting back to normal, I could wear my prosthetic legs and go out for a walk or go shopping.
“I was buying new clothes and make-up, I bought a new handbag.
“We had been making plans about redecorating my bedroom, but what’s the point now? It’s just so upsetting.
“Even having another year or two would have been good. Corey and Rosie are my world, Corey will be going to high school in September and I may not be around to see it.”
One thing Sarah is looking forward to is becoming godmother to her one-year-old nephew James this weekend.
But at what should be a happy time, she also has thoughts about her own funeral to contend with.
“I am starting to think about the little things,” she said.
“My favourite flowers are tulips and roses, and I love colours like dark red and burgundy.
“I want everyone at the funeral to be wearing something burgundy. I have been thinking about what songs I would like to be played too.” Kerry – who is also mum to Martina, 20, Callum, 22, and Melissa, 29 – said: “The worst thing is knowing that Sarah is going to die and all that she would have planned to do in her life she won’t be able to do.
“She would hopefully have got married and had children and now she won’t do any of that.
“We can talk about it together, but when you are on your own and you are thinking about it, that’s when I get upset.
“She is just an amazing person; she is strong and kind and when you consider everything she has been through, she’s amazing.”
Sarah and her family have set up a fundraising page in a bid to buy a holiday for Sarah and to help towards funeral costs.
If they are unable to get Sarah on her dream trip to Rome, mum Kerry said they hope she can go on a spa break.
Sarah’s sister Martina said on the Go Fund Me page: “Only 27 years old and Sarah has been told this is where her life is ending.
“She hasn’t had the chance to do the things she wanted, go to Rome, have children. And now she won’t get those chances.
“So help us make these last few weeks of Sarah’s life the best we can.
“Allow us to bring joy into her life and please donate.
“Unfortunately, we as a family are in the situation where we are planning her funeral with her.
“If you got to choose your funeral arrangements would you want just anything? Please support us. Please support Sarah. She’s been through so much in her life.”
The fundraising page can be found here