Dedication: My Wonderful Parents, My Foster Mum Jan, Her Mum Joy, My Big Brother John, My Partner Jay & My Two Beautiful Sons.
Life began for me in February 1991, I was born to two wonderful parents Leighton & Jacqueline, my mum had me later in life at the age of 48, she had two sons from her previous marriage. From the day I was born my parents were besotted with me, I was their only child together and a daughter. Growing up we lived in a town called Hatfield, our family home was lovely, I remember the garden, and have a few photos of me enjoying it, these are the memories I hold onto. My mum was smitten, she enjoyed our time together so much she took two years off from work after having me. My dad was a chef, he always had been, he had such a passion and talent, he had an amazing career within the hospitality sector.
In June 1993, my mum was given the devasting news that she had ovarian cancer, she underwent an operation to try to rectify it and had six months of chemotherapy, she didn’t let it faze her and continued to live life! She had always loved helping others, she was so passionate about helping charities and in April 1994 she was among 20,000 people who took part in a 2-hour aerobathon, she raised £200 and met Roy Castle, who wrote a letter to her before he passed away from cancer.
My mum met a few famous faces in her time Bruce Forsyth, The Beetles, Frank Bruno and others. Despite what she was facing she didn’t let it break her spirit! She returned to work in August 1994 but left her employment in October 1994 after doctors had told her the cancer had returned and it was terminal. Being so young I had no idea the battle my mum was facing, I now realise how scared my parents must have been but they always made sure I was none the wiser. They always had my best interests at heart, how I thank them for that!
My mum made three visits to her local MacMillan hospice where the nurses were able to make her comfortable, her last stay was on the 8th June 1995, she passed away peacefully in her sleep on the 15th June 1995 at the age of 52.
At the age of 4 years old, I had lost the person who had gave me life, created me, molded me! I had no clue what was going on and my dad very much sheltered me from what had taken place. The only real memories I have, a weird one, the staircase within the hospice that I was taken down and at my mums funeral, when she was lowered into the ground. These images pop into my mind quite often. My mum was a brave, courageous, beautiful woman, who was loved by everyone!
After my mums passing, my dad went onto meet a new partner, it was very sudden, around six months after the loss of my mum, again I don’t have clear memories of this, but I can only imagine it to be very confusing! We ended up leaving our family home in Hatfield to move to my dads’ partners home around 45 minutes away, this was when I was 5 years old.
I have more vivid memories of when we moved, I remember seeing my dads’ partner for the first time, instantly I had a bad feeling, she had entered our lives and was taking my dad away from me! She wasn’t anything like my mum, looks wise, personality, she was the complete opposite! For the first few years our relationship was rocky, she told me on numerous occasions “This was her house, and I will abide by her rules!” as time progressed and I rebelled against her, the physical, emotional and mental abuse started. My dad being a chef worked long hours, she worked also so they employed an au pair to make sure my needs were taken care of. My dad was never aware of the torment I was being subjected to, and looking back I’m glad, it would have broken him!
At the age of 9 years old, my dad started to become unwell, I remember him visiting the doctors regularly, he would come home often and be violently sick. It was awful to witness! My dad, 20 + stone, a big cuddly teddy bear, started to lose weight drastically. I remember hearing my dads’ wife mention stomach ulcers but after some time she was told it was a misdiagnosis and he in fact had gastric cancer. I wasn’t aware of what cancer was, why my dad was so sick and why he was spending so much time in hospital but all I wanted was to be with him, always. He was moved from one hospital to another, he contracted MRSA so he was placed in an isolation room and had restricted visitors. I remember the last Christmas we shared together, it was just me and my dad and it was so special!
It was in on the 4th February 2001 that my daddy lost his battle, I remember being picked up from school and taken to a family friends house, I was told “Your daddy has gone to be with the angels”. From that day on, I was angry at the world. I hadn’t had chance to process the death of my mum, and the same would happen with my dad. I didn’t have any support, my dads’ wife quite quickly dismissed me and how I was feeling and didn’t allow me to cry, “If you cry, it’s a sign of weakness, cry if something is wrong with you”. My school life went downhill, my home life was non existent and I rebelled. After my dad passed, I began binge eating and making myself sick, I now know I was battling with bulimia, it was my friend that noticed and she encouraged and supported me to get better. I believe that was coping mechanism at that particular time. Looking back my behaviour was awful but, in my eyes, I had reason to behave that way- the two most important people in my life had been taken away!
Life continued as it had when my dad was alive, I had a bad attitude, I backchatted, I cursed, I was hit! Luckily, I had a close group of girlfriends, they were everything to me then and still are now! I never confided in anyone about what was going on until I reached out to my paternal family, a court case took place and was dismissed, I was labelled a malicious, attention seeking liar at 11 years old.
By the age of 13, I was dabbling in drinking alcohol and smoking, it was my way of dealing with things but it wasn’t healthy, I used it to escape the feelings that were building up inside.
At the age of 14, I was kicked out of the family home, my dads’ wife couldn’t cope with me anymore, our relationship was non existent and I didn’t have respect for her.
I ended up going to a family friends house, I felt safe! She opened up her home to me and allowed me to stay but because of all the trauma I had experienced I wasn’t fair to her; I feel awful for this now! Not long after living with her it was decided I would go into care. I remember the time I returned home to find my things packed up in black bin bags and a social worker ready to take me, it was a heartbreaking moment!
I was taken to a childrens home about half an hour away from the town where I had lived, first glance it was like a prison, bars at the windows and didn’t look or feel homely. My time within the childrens home was a good experience, although I was scared to begin with, by the time I left a year later it was so hard to say goodbye! The house was always so noisy, young people in and out all the time, so much drama but I met so many amazing people that became a chapter in my life!
I was 16 when I met my foster mum Jan, she was a beautiful lady, with gorgeous blonde hair and perfectly painted nails. I had been to school with her daughter, so it was nice to see a familiar face. Life was good, finally, until a year and half later when Jan was diagnosed with lung cancer, the doctor told us it would all be okay, she had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it was so difficult to watch her go through it all but she was an absolute fighter! She went into remission and battled for 18 months!
It was on the 23rd December 2010 that she passed away with her brother and daughter by her side. The hardest day of my life, the woman who had finally given me a chance in life, believed in me, treated me like her own, taken away so cruelly. During this time Jans’ mum had become poorly with cancer also and she passed away just four days after Jan, they were inseparable, joint at the hip and she obviously couldn’t live her life without her darling daughter. It brought me comfort that they were together.
After Jan passed, myself and her daughter had to leave our home, we were classed as homeless. Fortunately, my partners mum offered for me to live with her and my partners siblings within their family home, I was grateful to be thrown a lifeline! Jan and her mums funeral took place in January, it was a beautiful send off, as they deserved.
At the beginning of February, I was given the news that my half-brother had been involved in a car accident, my other brother called me to tell me he was in hospital, the next I remember being told they had found a brain tumour, it was the cause of the accident. He had surgery and was discharged but a few days later he collapsed and died. This was a lot for me to take in, such a shock! Me and my brother were not very close but it still hit me like a ton of bricks! So much loss in such a short space of time. From the day Jan received her diagnosis I blamed myself, I tarnished myself with the name “Bad Omen”, death followed me and it was my fault everyone was getting poorly and died!
So, onto the positives, although I’ve experienced a lifetime of loss, I continue to rise up, I have found an inner strength that has kept me alive, believe me life could have gone a different way for me, I’m fortunate to have met an amazing partner during my time within the childrens home, he wasn’t a resident but someone I had known for some time! I believe he was sent to me by my parents, my guardian angel, he has helped me in more ways than he realises! 13 years later, we have two beautiful boys together and I finally have the family I’ve always wanted.
Recently in November 2020, I decided to launch my own YouTube channel Me, Mel, sharing my story and life experiences to help others. It is something I had thought about doing for a long time, I’d never had the support I so desperately needed from when I lost my amazing parents and this is something I would have benefited from, someone that could relate and truly understand. I just want people to know they’re not alone! The aim of the channel is to be a support network for bereaved people, I may not have the right answers but I have a listening ear, and sometimes that’s all we need. One day, I would love to write a book, but for now I honour my parents within this platform, they inspire me every day, continue to guide me and give me the determination and drive to keep living life!
Thank you for taking the time to read this..
You’re not alone, Stay Real
Photo credit: Images courtesy of the storyteller.