A GRIEVING family has told how their son’s dying wish was to set up a fund for his unborn child’s education.
Ben Mellon, aged 30, who described himself as a ‘cancer warrior’, died last month – three weeks after his wedding, and two months before his daughter’s birth.
His last words for his daughter, already named Phoebe Hope, were: ‘Experience everything, regret nothing.’
Speaking from their home in Ballaoates Road, Strang, his parents Neal and Jane described Ben as a family man with a big heart who had touched the lives of many people.
Jane said: ‘He was full of fun and he gave the best hugs. He leaves a really big gap in our group hugs.’
He worked in a learning disabled unit in Hull before working for 10 years in the island as a healthcare assistant and then starting his nurse training at Noble’s Hospital.
As an example of his caring nature, Jane recalled how Ben spent one Christmas and New Year away from his family with a patient who knew she was dying and wanted to put her affairs in order in England.
‘That was very special,’ she said.
Ben was born in Beverley, East Yorkshire, and at the age of three months was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. His family was warned he might not walk or talk.
Jane said he never let the condition get in his way, and if there was one thing that he would be remembered for, it would be for his endeavour.
He moved to the island with his parents at the age of 20.
In February 2011, Ben had worked three 12-hour shifts at Noble’s when he felt a pain in his leg. He thought he was just tired, but blood tests revealed he had acute myeloid leukaemia, a very aggressive form of cancer.
From February to September 2011, he received treatment, including four gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, at Royal Liverpool University Hospital.
On his last day at hospital he took his girlfriend Sam, who he met while studying at the University of Bolton, to the Wheel of Liverpool, the city’s equivalent to the London Eye.
Jane said Sam thought he was looking nervous because of the height of the wheel, but it turned out he was about to propose to her.
Ben returned home to the island and was in remission for five months.
Jane said that shortly after spending a ‘brilliant’ week with the whole family at Christmas Ben announced that he and Sam were expecting a baby.
A eulogy read by his sister Ciara said: ‘Although he agreed it was very early to share the news, he just couldn’t help himself and in his excitement he came home with little outfits, borrowed baby name books and had the corners turned down on favourites within.’
But in March this year, Ben received the news he had to return to the hospital in Liverpool.
He spent a weekend with Sam and his family in Belfast, celebrating St Patrick’s Day – something he had always wanted to do – before returning to Liverpool for further, more intense, treatment. His nurses paid tribute to him, ‘always the gentleman, never complaining’.
On his 30th birthday in May Ben was thrilled to find out they were expecting a girl, with Sam revealing the news by presenting him with a tray of pink cupcakes and showing him scan pictures.
‘He talked about how he would not let his little girl date until she was 30, and how he would scare all her boyfriends away.’
They married in the intensive care unit on July 7, three weeks before he died on July 22.
A mass in remembrance and celebration of Ben’s life was held at St Mary of the Isle, in Douglas, on August 2.
Jane said that, as a student nurse, Ben didn’t have savings, and had asked that a baby fund be set up towards his daughter’s education. In lieu of flowers, the family asked for donations towards the fund.
She said the church was ‘packed’, with one of the nurses from the ICU at the Royal Hospital attending.
In the eulogy it said: ‘Ben was always the child, and had he lived to be 99, he still would have been a little boy with his big boy grin and his way of laughing. When Ben laughed, he couldn’t stop.
‘He would laugh until he was sick, until he was blue in the face, and would have the family shouting: “Breathe Ben, breathe!”’
His university hockey team plan to hold a memorial match in August in his honour.
Ben’s treatment involved blood transfusions up to three times a week while another kind of blood transfusion involved 10 donors each time.
As a result, his parents are keen to raise awareness of the importance of giving blood as well as the work of Anthony Nolan, a charity which works to save the lives of people with blood cancer. It matches donors willing to donate their blood stem cells with those who need them.
Ben’s wife Sam, who lives in Bolton, has set up a JustGiving page – www.justgiving.com/remember/29781/Ben-Mellon – to raise money for the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. She has raised more than £720 so far.
In addition to his sister Ciara, Ben leaves brothers Dominic and Simon.