Young family mourns loss of loving mother

BEAUTIFUL PERSON: Megan Menlove with her three girls, Sophia, 4, Emma, 2, and baby Alice.
BEAUTIFUL PERSON: Megan Menlove with her three girls, Sophia, 4, Emma, 2, and baby Alice.

The day after her third baby was born Megan Menlove, 31, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Her husband, Southland man Hamish Menlove, is now urging anyone with health concerns to act on them.

Earlier this year, the Brisbane-based Menlove family, Hamish, Megan, Sophia, 4, and Emma, 2, were excited about the arrival of new baby Alice and never expected a shock diagnosis would turn their world upside down.

"The day after the birth of our third daughter, on March 1, Megan was diagnosed with terminal cancer," Hamish Menlove said.

After Alice was born, doctors discovered a hard mass in Megan's abdomen and ordered a scan, which showed multiple inoperable lesions on her liver.

A subsequent colonoscopy uncovered a 9cm primary tumour in Megan's lower bowel. Had the decision been made to undertake the procedure earlier, it could have saved Megan's life, Menlove said.

That knowledge was all the more devastating given Megan, who was raised in Mossburn, had sought medical advice on several occasions during her pregnancy.

During the last few months of her third pregnancy, Megan knew something wasn't quite right with her health, Menlove said.

"Her symptoms included stomach and back pain, shortness of breath, weight loss and irregular bowel movements, which included some bleeding," he said.

Despite several visits to her Brisbane doctor, all of Megan's symptoms were put down to simply "being pregnant".

"These symptoms, pregnant or not, should ring alarm bells to anyone," he said.

Citing the old adage, "If it doesn't feel right, it generally isn't",  Menlove implored anyone who experienced such symptoms to seek medical advice and push for answers - even if it meant asking for a colonoscopy.

"I know that it seems crazy that this is the only way that they can fully identify bowel cancer but we need to take our own health very seriously."

Before Megan lost her battle on April 12, the Menlove family returned to Southland, where she put up a brave fight. In the six weeks after the birth of Alice, she endured two rounds of chemotherapy, multiple procedures and physical and emotional trauma.

On her last visit from the oncology doctor, three days before Megan died, he commented that he couldn't remember seeing a cancer cell count so high, Menlove said.

"This is testament to the true strength of a beautiful person."

Left with the task of raising three little girls who miss their mum greatly, Menlove said he had chosen to go public with his story to raise public awareness.

"I hope that sharing this very private story can maybe stop another family going through the pain and loss that we feel."

Menlove said he did not intend to "go on a witch hunt" to hold the Australian doctors accountable for failing to take Megan's health complaints further and said he was more interested in preventing other Kiwis from losing their lives to bowel cancer.

The Menlove family was grateful to all those involved in Megan's care, especially Southland Hospice, he said.

"She felt safe and cared for in her last weeks of life."

The support, practical, emotional and financial, from family and friends since Megan's diagnosis had been overwhelming, he said.

"We really do feel humble by the support the whole family has received, and it does make this horrible journey a little more bearable."

The Southland Times