Melanie May was a Sweet Louise member from Cambridge who passed away last year. She was sister-in-law to Karen May, who shares Melanie’s special story below.
“Melanie was born intellectually disabled and autistic. As an adult she was a young child in a woman’s body, with the cognitive ability of a four year old.
Melanie could be ‘high’ or ‘low’. We loved it when she was on a high. She was funny, spontaneous, she would burst into song and dance.
She was also gifted. Like many autistic people, her memory for certain things was fantastic and in her case, it was remembering faces and names.
Melanie loved hats, colouring books, music, gardening and her chickens. Family were incredibly important to her too and she was lucky enough to have two families – her caregivers and us.
Melanie was 35 years old when she developed primary breast cancer. One day, while I was showering her I noticed an indentation on her right breast. We made an appointment to see the doctor, and that’s when her cancer journey began.
She didn’t own her cancer – that was my husband Vernon’s and my job. Cancer was just a word for her. She didn’t understand what it meant in terms of what she would go through in the coming years.
To help explain to Melanie what was going to happen, I put together a booklet with pictures of the hospital, the equipment, the doctors and nurses. Whenever we needed to take her to treatment, the little book would come with us and we’d flip through the pages while in the waiting room.
Post-mastectomy, Mel would often stun people she had just met by shaking their hand and hitting them with, ‘Hi, my name’s Mel and I’ve lost a booby to cancer’.
When she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2014 there was more anger and tears on my behalf. I couldn’t help but think ‘why Mel?’ as she had been through so much already. Thanks to support like yours though, we were introduced to the amazing services of Sweet Louise.
Sweet Louise was the light at the end of the tunnel on days when it was really dark. Just knowing that we could phone or email them for a chat – or just a good belly laugh – was so comforting. I want you to know that that really helped.
It was great having written material from them which helped explain to Melanie more about the disease. The vouchers provided each year were a real treat for her. She adored getting her nails done and trying out all the different colours. This is what your support of Sweet Louise meant to us – the little things were huge for Mel and for us.
Thanks to Sweet Louise supporters, we also went to two theatre shows and Melanie loved them, especially Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. She wasn’t well at the time, but she lit up watching the show and she had a magical grin on her face the entire time.
Sweet Louise brought happiness to Mel at a time she really needed it. Being mentally disabled, she didn’t have a concept of time like us, and she didn’t understand her disease. But with your help, she was able to smile, to dance like she used to, and enjoy life’s little pleasures.
Melanie passed on July 4th 2017. She was a huge part of our lives and she is hugely missed. She was my sister-in-law, the sister I never had and my ‘other’ daughter all in one. She taught me so many lessons and it was a privilege to be part of her life.”