Melinda Kolodynski visited a doctor to discuss back pain she thought was related to her period. But a year later, the 34-year-old received a diagnosis of a rare cancer that killed her nine months later. She left behind her husband and two sons, a six-year-old and a three-year-old. After her prognosis, she expressed her regret at not being able to watch her children grow up.
“I was in the worst pain of my life.”
“Once again we spend a couple of days with our heads in the pillow, tears streaming down our faces but it’s time to get up dust off and soldier on because there is a fight to be had and I’m not done here,” Kolodynski wrote on social media after the cancer metastasized to her liver. And the doctors gave her a prognosis she “wasn’t willing to accept.” 
Her mother, Tracey McClure, started a GoFundMe to help with medical bills and make Kolodynski as comfortable as possible in her last moments. But after Kolodynski’s passing, people continued donating to support the grieving family and help with any upcoming financial complications.
It all began with back pain that Kolodynski easily managed with Panadol. She was able to continue working as an account manager and take care of her family. But after two months, the pain became unbearable. “It was July 2022 and even after taking Panadol again the pain didn’t go away,” said Kolodynski. “By 11 pm, I was in the worst pain of my life. It felt like I was in labour. I was begging my husband to kill me as we waited for the ambulance, it was that bad.”
When the paramedics arrived, they managed to ease the pain. As they approached the hospital, Kolodynski was feeling better and joked with her husband, David, that it was probably just constipation. “I was feeling a lot better but the doctors did CT scans of my pelvis to check,” said Kolodynski. “That’s when they found three masses and said they suspected I had advanced ovarian cancer.”
A “one-in-10-million” cancer diagnosis
However, her true diagnosis was much worse. After more tests, she received her diagnosis: angiosarcoma, an extremely rare soft tissue blood cancer. “It’s a one-in-a-million type of cancer which is usually found on the surface of the skin as a secondary cancer,” she said. “Being in my pelvis as a primary cancer meant mine was actually a one-in-10-million case.”
But its rare status made it difficult to find effective treatment. She wasn’t suited to any clinical trials. After chemotherapy failed, doctors suggested a radical pelvic exenteration surgery. It wouldn’t cure the cancer but it could extend her life. “But then, at the last minute, the surgeons decided my tumor was too large to guarantee any success, even with this. Now there is no plan,” she said in December 2022. “I know cancer is going to take my life. But I just want more time.” 
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She made the most of the rest of her life, focusing on her children and preparing them for the future. “I want to keep doing the normal stuff with my boys,” she said. “Before, if they asked me to read a book while I was making dinner, I’d keep making dinner. But now I stop and read the book. I’d love to take them on holiday and see Corey go off to school but I don’t know what will be possible.”
Her eldest son, Max, had his own health struggles. He was born with a congenital short femur and is in the midst of a marathon of surgeries to extend the length of his leg. “It’s my job as his mum to be there for him,” Kolodynski said. “He’s six, so he does understand a lot though. I have had to tell him mummies can’t always be there forever and that Daddy and Grandma will take care of him and his mummy will always be in his heart.” Above all, she focused on creating beautiful memories with her family and staying “present in every moment.”
What is angiosarcoma?
Angiosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that forms in the lining of blood vessels and lymph vessels. It could appear anywhere in the body, but it typically appears in the skin, liver, spleen, and breast. It’s so rare that about one person in a million receives this diagnosis every year in the United States. When it occurs on the skin, it could be like a bruised area that grows over time and bleeds easily.
There might be pain in the area, but if the cancer is deeper in the body, there may be no symptoms at all. It’s diagnosed through imaging scans like MRI, CT, or PET scans to find the tumor and determine its size. Then the doctor would perform a biopsy to diagnose the type of cancer.
Angiosarcoma grows quickly, so it requires aggressive treatment that often comes in the form of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery could remove all or some of the tumor, but it’s not always an option depending on where it’s located. Radiation therapy could be used alongside surgery to target the cancerous area to stop it from developing again. It’s also used when surgery is not an option. However, if the tumor spreads to other parts of the body, chemotherapy is usually required, sometimes alongside radiation therapy.
The prognosis for people with angiosarcoma depends on where the tumor is located, how much of it remains after surgery, and if it has spread throughout the body. Because it’s usually diagnosed when severe symptoms appear, the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, resulting in a difficult prognosis. Fortunately, doctors and scientists are working on finding and developing new treatments for angiosarcoma.
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