Thursday, October 8, 2015

Melissa Fisher, My Hero

Last summer, I met a woman named Melissa who would change my life. We connected through a Facebook group for women with cervical cancer, and we just kept growing on each other like mold. Before too long, we were #cancerbesties.

Mel was diagnosed in June 2014 with stage 1b2 cervical cancer. That's still considered an early stage, but it was agressive, and she did have to go through a lot of treatment - surgery, chemo and radiation. It was rough on her, but she was most positive cancer patient I have ever seen - "I'm gonna beat this." "I'm gonna kick cancer's ass." Because that's who she is as a person. She radiates love and positivity. She puts others before herself. For example, if I took a hiatus from Facebook, she will text me and threaten to send out the National Guard.

In October, Melissa finished chemo and radiation. That's a long damn time to go through all of that. She had side effects: chemo brain, nausea, food not tasting good, exhaustion. She still stayed positive. She and her fiance Ed had had to postpone their vacation to their happy place when she was diagnosed. So once she was done with treatment, with the help of Ed and Mel's parents, she got to spend her time in her happy place from November through January. She needed the break, to recoup mentally, physically and spiritually. And yes, because she is the photo queen, we got to see plenty of pics. Ed, family, and friends visited. She did come home for bits at a time.

And then the bomb dropped. She started having extreme pain, so her oncology team moved her PET scan up early. And what they found was devastating. Not only had the treatment failed to remove the cancer from her body, it had actually metastasized. Melissa went from being stage 1b2 with the hope of being NED (no evidence of disease) to being restaged to stage 4.

She said she couldn't be upbeat and positive like she was before. She needed time to  process. I have never felt so impotent in my life. This woman I love like she was my sister, my #cancerbestie, was living a nightmare, and I had no words or actions to make it better. But true to Melissa's indomitable spirit, she asked what was next. I won't go into all the consultations, options, clinical trials, etc. because I don't really understand them. Because I was lucky. But I will tell you all the amazing things that have happened for Melissa since she received that horrible news.

In April, Melissa's sister-in-law, Danielle, hosted a Beef & Beer to raise money for Mel's medical costs. There was food galore, drinks were flowing, a silent auction (I actually won a prize!!!!).

And then it happened. Ed took the stage with a minister and his best man, and one of Melissa's two best friends from forever, Colleen, was there too. And suddenly, Melissa was walking down the aisle with her father. To the great surprise of everyone in the banquet hall, Melissa and Ed got married. I still get chills when I think about it.

It was the most perfect, most beautiful wedding I have ever been to, and I am so grateful that I was there to witness it.

So let's fast forward to the last few weeks. Mel was in a clinical trial, but her tumors grew, so she was removed. She and her oncologist decided to put her on a dual chemo regimen. However, one of the drugs, Taxol, at full strengt, would cause her to lose her hair. So in true Melissa fashion, she went out with a bang. Melissa has long, smooth, shiny, beautiful hair that hangs halfway down her back. And facing losing that, like the true rock star she is, she dyed her hair...

Yes, that is my #cancerbestie, looking like a sex machine, with her beautiful teal hair. Talk about going all in and truly representing your cause. She knew she wouldn't have it for very long, but as she said, "How often do I get an opportunity to go crazy with hair color!!"

There are so many things about cancer in women that are hard. Mastectomies, radiation damage, loss of fertility, and yes, hair loss. We feel these are the things that make us women. The truth is, they are not. And given the choice between no treatment and death, and treatment that can cause horrible side effects, but make you live, it's kind of a no brainer.

So Melissa started losing her hair. She was faced with a decision that no woman, especially with hair as magnificent and TEAL as hers, wants to face: to shave it off or to not shave it off? She worried she'd look like a boy. I'm sure she worried that she wouldn't be beautiful any more. But she made her choice.

"Looks like I left something at home today...oops!!!"

Melissa shaved her head. And guess what? She is as beautiful as ever, even more so because she was brave enough to make that decision. Do you see this woman with those huge blue eyes? Shaving her head only accentuates them. She is still the beautiful, funny, positive woman that we all know and love. Hair or no hair, Melissa you are beautiful inside and out. And did I mention funny? Check out the caption.

I had the honor of spending a few days in Delaware with Melissa and Ed over the summer. She was not feeling great, and was bummed that she couldn't take me out for at least one night on the town. But all I cared about was being with her. We slept on the couch together every night that I was there. We talked, we laughed, we were our usual #cancerbesties. Melissa's chemo regimen is intense right now, so I'm not sure when I will get to go visit her again. But I've got photos (selfie queens) and memories, and of course, Facebook. And I am sure, deep in my heart, that I will be with my dear friend again.

 I think I've done a good job of selling it out for you all the reasons I admire this woman. Ultimately, she is my hero because she NEVER GIVES UP. She has her bad days, but she bounces back, and is the same positive, uplifting, hilarious, loving woman. We all break down sometimes. Melissa gets back up and keeps fighting. Mel, if I never met you, there would be a void in my heart and I wouldn't know why. And I wouldn't have anyone to build the most insane farm ever with.

I love you, with all my heart, to the moon and back. Thank you for sharing your life with me. Thank you for the hugs and kisses. Thank you for being my #cancerbestieforever.

For the full story of Melissa's big fight, check out her blog, that OTHER "C" word.


No comments:

Post a Comment