Mel O’Neill was looking forward to giving his two daughters an evening out watching their favorite singer, Ariana Grande.
It has been a few difficult years for Mel and her family. First she was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, then she was involved in a knife attack before a potentially lethal car accident.
But they seemed to have left bad luck behind and were determined to celebrate with Lois and Darcey at the show at the Manchester Arena.
Devastating, the trio was a few meters away from the explosion of terror that killed 22 innocent fans and injured hundreds more on May 22, 2017.
Fortunately, all three survived, but Mel says his “heart goes out” to all the families who lost their loved ones that night.
And after all he went through, his heart was broken at 46 when he was told in January that he had run out of options after battling inflammatory breast cancer for nearly a decade.
After surviving so long, Mel was adamant that she didn’t give up despite the diagnosis and made one last attempt at chemotherapy.
Incredibly, the treatment appears to have been successful.
Mum of two said: “I am a disaster area for walking. But I am still here in 10 years and I feel lucky to be alive.
“With the anniversary of the bomb on us, I think of all the families who have lost loved ones and my heart goes out to them.”
Mel insists on the power of love and positive thinking that dragged her into her darkest days.
Doctors at Christie Hospital in Manchester started Mel with one last chance of chemotherapy after other failed treatments.
Mel, of Warrington, Cheshire, who is recovering with the help of his daughters Lois, 14, and Darcey, 13, said: “I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in 2011. My prognosis was not good then, but I’m still here about 10 years later.
“I started a new chemo course in January of this year and the results have been dramatic.
“I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason and I also completely believe that life is what you make it and if you want to be happy you have to create happiness for yourself.
“Every time I see a picture of a bee, a slogan or a street art that commemorates the bomb in the arena, I am reminded of the power to work together to overcome whatever gets in your way .
“I feel lucky to be alive and I’m going to be here to tell our grandchildren what happened to us. My heart goes to the families of the twenty-two young lives who never returned home that night. “
He bought tickets to the Ariana Grande concert as a Christmas present for their daughters after a series of deadly setbacks rocked the family.
Their bad luck started in 2011, when Mel, at 37, was diagnosed with cancer.
He said: “It has been a long and difficult journey and there have been very difficult moments. My daughters were tiny when I was diagnosed, so it was difficult for the whole family. “
Just after her 40s in 2014, Mel was involved in a serious car accident and was fortunate to survive.
She had to be revived, suffered from two cerebral hemorrhages and later had to learn to speak and walk again.
Mel said, “I had to leave the accident department to do chemotherapy. I was going from one disaster to another. In the end I recovered completely even though my memory is still not exceptional. “
In December 2016, Mel and her husband Carl, also 46, spent an evening out with eight members of the hairdresser they owned.
He said: “We went around the Christmas markets and then went to a karaoke bar. We had a fantastic evening.
“We took the train home at 10.30pm and took a sip at the potato chip shop outside the station.”
But while inside the takeaway, a thug attacked Carl, hitting a bottle on the neck. He was lucky to survive.
Ariana Grande’s concert was supposed to be a thank you to Mel’s daughters for being so brave in all the family’s problems.
He explained, “Lois and Darcey both loved it and were thrilled when they opened the presents. When the day finally came, we were all so excited.
Carl was still suffering from flashbacks and anxiety from the attack. I felt exhausted from my latest cancer study.
“And so, we really couldn’t wait to spend a fantastic family evening together. It was an opportunity to relax. The concert was brilliant. Lois and Darcey were dancing and singing at the top of their lungs.
“At the end of the concert, when we collected our things, suddenly there was a huge bang. The whole place seemed to tremble.
“We heard screaming. People were falling on top of each other to get out. When we arrived from one of the most distant exits, we could hear the sirens outside.
“And when we got into the car, we heard the terrible news that a bomb had exploded in the lobby. We got lost for a few meters.
“Again, we have deceived death. But it was heartbreaking to learn that so many people had lost their lives. All I could think of were the 22 people who had gone to a concert and would never return home. “
Carl’s striker Josh Murphy appeared at Liverpool Crown Court later that year and was imprisoned for 20 months after admitting he had been injured.
Mel said, “Between us, Carl and I seem to be attracting so much bad luck. Yet despite all that has happened; cancer, car accident, attack and bomb – we’re still alive.
“So, I can’t help but feel that we too must be incredibly lucky.”