Student who thought she had an iron deficiency discovers she has cancer

University student Jessica Mellor, from Sheffield, York, was sleeping for 15 hours a day and began to suffer from extreme dizziness before a blood test revealed the problem

Jessica Mellor on holiday before the diagnosis
Jessica Mellor on holiday before the diagnosis

A student who slept for 15 hours a day was stunned to discover she has cancer – after mistaking her symptoms for an iron deficiency.

Jessica Mellor, 20, from Sheffield, Yorks, initially thought her vegetarian diet might be behind the strange symptoms she experienced, which included extreme dizziness and exhaustion.

In her second year of Aerospace Engineering at Leeds University, Jessica found herself struggling to take part in her studies.

After a life-saving trip to the doctors, she was stunned to discover that her excessive napping and fatigue were a symptom of chronic myeloid leukemia.

Now, one year on, Jessica is in remission and back in university.

Jessica said: “I’ve never been a tired person so it was strange for me. Every night, I was sleeping for up to 12 hours, waking up for only two hours and then having a three-hour nap.

She is now battling an aggressive form of cancer



She mistook her symptoms for an iron deficiency



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“I’m a vegetarian, I just assumed I had anemia or maybe lacking vitamin B12 – I never would have thought it was something so serious.

“I went for a blood test and they phoned me the next day to tell me my white blood count was 10 times what it should have been.

“I was told that I had chronic myeloid leukemia and it was in the blast stage which is the most aggressive.”

After her shocking diagnosis, Jess had to stay in hospital for five months whilst undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy.

She adds: “I didn’t know how to feel, it was too much to take in.

“I felt so much frustration because I had to defer uni for the year and I was stuck in a hospital room so I missed out on a lot.’

The 20-year-old during her treatment



Jessica’s Mum – Kerry Mellor after donating



She was forced to temporarily quit her studies as she underwent aggressive treatment including a stem cell transplant from her own mum, Kerry Mellor, 51.

During treatment, she was only allowed to see her mum who could not visit her for more than an hour a day.

She said: “There wasn’t a match for me on the donation register so my Mum donated even though she was only half a match.

“This meant they had to filter out the cells that were a match – it was nice to know I could rely on someone like that.”

While the transplant was a success and Jess is now on the mend, she still has to take oral chemotherapy daily and is forced to live alone as her low immunity is a risk to her life.

She said: “My stem cell transplant means I have to live by myself which means my immunity is really low.

“I had to remain shielded because if I caught any type of virus, I could have died – there were no white blood cells in my body to protect me.

“Now I’m back at university, I have to live alone which people don’t really do at university and I have to watch the Covid level if I want to go outside – it’s quite lonely.

“The treatment means my eyelashes and eyebrows are falling out which isn’t nice and affected my self-esteem.”

Jessica is now looking forward to the next academic year, where she will be allowed to live with her friends again.

She said: “I don’t know what I would have done without the support from ‘Young Lives vs Cancer’ and my support worker, Harriet Wainwright who has really helped me money wise and getting the help that I needed to carry on at university .”

She initially wanted to follow an engineering career path however, after her terrifying experience, Jessica is thinking about taking her life in a new direction.

Jessica said: “The experience has changed my life and I’m unsure if I want to still go down the path my degree is taking me.

“Currently, I’m volunteering with ‘Marrow’ – the Anthony Nolan student network which encourages other students to donate stem cells.”

Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive at Young Lives vs Cancer said: “Going through cancer when you’re young is life-shattering, you have big plans and dreams and then cancer comes along and puts a line through it all.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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