Melissa McNaughton, Mrs Inspiration UK 2016, has vowed to lead a normal life after being diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) after a routine blood test, just six months before her 30th birthday.
CML is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells and usually progress slowly over many years, typically common in adults between the ages of 60-65 years-old. There are rarely obvious symptoms when the illness is in its early stages but as it progresses you can experience tiredness, weight loss and bone pain.
Almost a year on from her shock diagnosis, Melissa has said that treatment has been going well, although admits she has good and bad days with the side effects from the medication and treatment: “The side effects can be awful. For a week I couldn’t walk without assistance. I am sometimes covered head to toe in a rash.
“I have extreme fatigue, dizziness, muscle and bone pain. This won’t last forever. I know this will pass as the treatment works away.”
For the owner of MACS hair studio in Glasgow’s West End, daily life is now taking medication such as Imatinib Mesylate, pain killers, sickness tablets and vitamins.
Melissa said: “It was all a blur. The only word I heard was leukaemia. And then the doctors said ‘we need to check your bone marrow and we can arrange that for as soon as possible, get an appointment for next week’.
“And then I just snapped back from my daydream and said ‘can you do it now? I want to start whatever treatment straight away.’ Everything rushes through your head, so many questions and so many emotions.”
Melissa suffered no other symptoms other than feeling tired constantly which she initially put down to having low blood iron and overworking herself in her salon and with charity work. She had to spend a lot of time adjusting to the changes.
She said: “Life has changed quite a bit. Especially at the beginning, I could hardly get out of bed never mind apply set after set of hair extensions.
“My mind is all here and I’m still the same me but my body has become much weaker. Every day is different.
“I try not to let it take over my life as I still have so much I want to achieve. So in the morning I try my best to fix my hair and make-up and get on with my day as much as I can.”
Melissa’s mum, Ann Currie, an award–winning hypnotherapist has said she will be taking part in the Rob Roy hiking challenge along with her husband Stephen to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Melissa said: “When my mum said that her and dad were both doing it, I thought ‘no way, you guys are nuts.’
“It is a huge challenge but I know I have got my determination from both of them so I know they will smash it! And of course it is for such a worthy cause.”
The event will be taking place on the 31st August 2019, with the hike starting off in Callander and continuing to Killin. Approximately 200 hikers will make their way along Rob Roy Way and through Trossachs National Park.
Ann said: “When Stephen & I saw this challenge we didn’t even give it a second thought, we signed up for it straight away and thought about the training afterwards.
“We have always been involved with and organised charity events close to our hearts but this one is even closer as our only daughter was diagnosed with CML last year. We wanted to give something back to them as they have been amazing for our family.”
Currently the husband and wife team are in training and have set up their own routines in their hometown of Eaglesham, near East Kilbride: “As the days are getting longer, so is our training and within the next month we hope to increase our weekend walks to 10-15 miles per day.
”We have even got our little dog Rory a brand new backpack as he will be coming on our weekend walks, so whenever his wee legs get tired he can just hop in to the back pack.”
She then went on describe the moment of shock when her only daughter was diagnosed with the heart-breaking illness and said life changed dramatically for the family as they dealt with the devastating news.
She said: “We were shocked when Melissa was diagnosed with CML, shocked and in disbelief. We are a very close family and our lives changed in an instant. The long–term plans Melissa had were shelved for the time being as she had to deal with the present moment with the treatment starting right away.
“It’s been over 10 months since her diagnosis and under the watchful eyes of the doctors, her blood percentages have been brought back down from alarmingly high to normal.
“Knowing that Melissa is in a good place mentally, has the strong support from family, friends and a team of doctors and the support network from MacMillan and the Maggies centre in Glasgow, we are optimistic that our strong little family unit will grow stronger and continue to power through this.”
Ann and her husband Stephen are hoping to raise more awareness and give people a better understanding of what the charity does and how it helps people going through difficult circumstances with on-going physical, financial and emotional support.
She said: “MacMillan is always there 24/7 and have assured us they always will be there for all of us. The MacMillan specialist that Melissa sees regularly at hospital, along with the consultants are all so positive, optimistic and caring. I don’t know where we would be without them.
“MacMillan Cancer Support also has an online community, always there with advice and support from experts and people with real life experiences. There is a whole lot of love, comfort and support and we want to see this continue.”