BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
WHEN aged 29, June Melanie Pelomo started experiencing continuous severe lower back and hip bone pain with abnormal bleeding when she was initially working at a meat company called Teys Australia Beenleigh in Queensland, Australia in 2022.
She experienced persistent symptoms for weeks before going to the hospital.
But once she did, doctors found fibroid tumors in her uterus and other endometriosis growths in other areas of her body. Now the 30-year-old is currently battling uterine (womb) cancer after undergoing CT and transvaginal ultrasound scan, surgery, and regular chemotherapy treatment this year .
Having stage 4 urine cancer at a young age, Melanie has no child, it’s very difficult to accept the biopsy result.
“I never imagined the doctor saying to me, “Your biopsy came back cancerous.”
“The news punched me in the gut. But with words of encouragement from family and friends, my mind grew stronger each day to fight this deadliest female cancer. I’m currently waiting on the pathology report to confirm what stage I’m in and the report should be available today. They also referred me to a cancer specialist and he will take over from there.
“It has been very challenging for me and my family. The only thing that kept me going is the family and friends’ support system and their prayers as well as mine. I experience sleepless nights and even sometimes I can’t sleep during the day. The ugliness of Uterine (Womb) Cancer is very draining that it not only affects me physically but mostly mentally and emotionally,” said the 30-year-old June Melanie Pelomo who is from the remote region of Choiseul Province in the Solomon Islands.
“My first chemotherapy hospital experience – it was a very strange sight in the hospital which I could not relate to, especially to see myself as the only young patient of my age – other patients are much older.
“It’s quite a pity and sad situation for me especially to be comforted by the smile given to me by the older patients at the hospital.
“I learned to give myself leniency. I have to give myself that room to grow into the new me.
A Lawyer by Profession
Melanie previously graduated with a law degree from the University of South Pacific (USP) campus in Vanuatu in 2016 and worked for 3 years as an insurance & legal affairs officer at the Solomon Airlines office in Honiara.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and faced with financial hardship to build a permanent family home; I resigned and applied for the labour mobility employment scheme and later accepted to come work at a meat factory in Australia.
She is realistic about what the future might hold, even with chemotherapy treatment.
What is Uterine Cancer?
According to NHA Inform, the most common symptom of womb cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina.
The symptoms include:
- abnormal bleeding
- pain in the lower abdomen
- pain during sex
- pain in the back
- loss of appetite
Several factors increase your risk of developing womb cancer.
- being overweight or obese
- having children
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- It is important to see a doctor if you begin experiencing any symptoms such as abnormal bleeding or heavier periods.
- If left untreated, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
- Being overweight or obese – oestrogen can be produced in fatty tissue and being overweight or obese increases the level of oestrogen in your body. Women who are overweight are three times more likely to develop womb cancer compared with women who are a healthy weight, while very obese women are six times more likely to develop endometrial cancer compared with women who are a healthy weight.
- Not having children – women who have not had children are at a higher risk of womb cancer, which medics believe could be down increased levels of progesterone and decreased levels of oestrogen that occur during pregnancy having a protective effect on the lining of the womb.
- Diabetes – women with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cancer because it can increase the amount of insulin in the body, which in turn raises oestrogen levels. Many women with type 2 diabetes are also overweight, which further increases the risk.
- Polycystic ovaries – women with polycystic ovaries are more likely to develop womb cancer because they also have more oestrogen in their body.
- Endometrial hyperplasia – this condition causes the lining of the womb to become thicker, which could leave women at an increased risk of the cancer.
How Melanie Coping with Regular Chemotherapy Treatment
Earlier this month, in an emotional online interview with SOLOMON WOMEN Melanie revealed she’s still been admitted to Toowoomba Base Hospital in Queensland and has continued to receive regular chemotherapy treatment at the hospital.
“I’m still receiving regular chemotherapy treatment – now I am into the 6th cycle of chemotherapy.
“I have been treated with cytotoxic drugs (the cytotoxic substances usually damage or kill rapidly growing cancer cells).
“This year, I initially undergo my first fibroid surgery, the surgical operation aimed to remove fibroids (a non-cancerous tumor in the uterus) that have grown into the inside of my uterus.
Kidney Complications Related to Uterine Cancer
With almost two months of admission at the Toowoomba Base Hospital in Queensland, Melanie continues to battle against the stage 4 uterine cancer that had now expanded to her kidneys.
She also said that she had recently undergone a nephrostomy tube procedure on one of her kidneys obstructed by uterine cancer.
“After undergoing the procedure on Wednesday 12 April 2023, my kidney function had improved from 6% – 38%.
A nephrostomy tube procedure is a surgical procedure in which a tube, catheter, or stent is inserted through the skin and into the kidney to drain urine. The tube runs from the kidney to a bag outside the body. The procedure may be done when the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder, is blocked.
According to an abstract from the national library of Medicine, kidney disease can arise from the use of chemotherapeutic agents.
“Many of the current and newly developed cancer chemotherapeutic agents are nephrotoxic and can promote kidney dysfunction, which frequently manifests during the terminal stages of cancer,” the abstract noted.
“I believe this is a taboo topic in the culture of our islands especially when it comes to talking about the female reproductive system. However, I would like to put this aside and focus on advocating for our beautiful females in the Solomon Islands and around the Pacific.
“I wanted to raise awareness of this deadliest disease because most of our females in the Solomon Islands and the Pacific lack the knowledge of it, the symptoms, and ways to go about it (the importance is to get tests, screening and seek early medical attention from health service providers).
“It is time that we make such topic at homes, communities, churches, schools, rural areas, and the country as a whole alive. Please fathers, husbands, brothers, male partners, and boyfriends, listen to your daughters, wives, sisters, female partners, and girlfriends and support them if they are going through such female changes in their bodies or experiencing these symptoms. Take note of the symptoms!
“Females, remember this is not something to be ashamed of. Seek medical attention if you experience such changes in your body. It is better to detect it at an early stage so treatment can be done to save you.
“My message to all women and girls in the country is to listen to your body. It does tell you things. It’s about knowing yourself. Once you know, you can fight it.
“I hope my story will help save a life!”
Faith in God
“Every day I draw myself closer to God through faith and prayer.
“Despite experiencing the dismay of constant pain, discomfort, restlessness, and sleepless nights, I very much rely on my faith and prayers to God especially to give me healing, peace, hope, and strength to stay strong and never give up my fight to get healed from my sickness and have a normal life,” she said.
Words of Thanks
“I am so thankful for the Almighty God’s given strength, love, and courage to keep me going each day.
“I am also much more grateful for my support system – especially my family and friends for their immediate prayers and likewise my big thanks to the doctors and oncologists here in Australia. The PLS and PICQ team assisted me in terms of my welfare. My former work colleagues at Teys Australia Beenleigh. My fiancé’s work colleagues here in Gatton Rugby Farm Company for financial and spiritual support. For all prayer ministries here in Australia and in the Solomon Islands. For those who have donated money through my GoFundMe which made it possible in my first chemotherapy treatment in Australia.”