13 Years Old at Diagnosis
In February of 2009, Melissa broke her leg and was rushed to the ER. Her doctor ordered an x-ray to determine the best way to fix her broken leg, and noticed an abnormality, causing them to order an MRI to get a better picture. Later that day, Melissa and her parents received news that no one should ever hear; their 13-year-old daughter had osteosarcoma. Her doctors found cancer in her right hip, femur, and knee. Melissa underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and eventually had to have her bones fused due to complications from treatment. When she went into remission, her family was ecstatic.
The celebration was short lived because in May of 2010, doctors found cancer in Melissa’s lungs. She had chemotherapy and surgery on her lungs later that year, and went into remission again, this time for a year.
In 2011, her family received the news that Melissa had relapsed again in her lungs and would have to undergo chemotherapy and another surgery. The treatment was successful, but only for a short time, because Melissa relapsed for a third time in 2012. The family began looking for alternative treatments and ended up in Orlando for a clinical trial. The trial went well, and Melissa was declared in remission.
This year, now 17-year-old Melissa learned that her cancer had returned once again, this time in her sternum. Her doctors informed her that there weren’t many more treatment options. Surgery wasn’t an option because of the proximity to her heart, and since she had already received chemotherapy in the past, her doctors weren’t sure how effective it would be. Her family didn’t give up on a search for a cure for Melissa. They were excited when they heard about a trial being conducted at the National Institute of Health (NIH). When Melissa and her family traveled to NIH to begin the trial, they found that Melissa’s heart wasn’t strong enough to withstand the treatment. Now, they are working on getting her heart strong enough to begin treatment and undergoing chemotherapy.
This round of treatment has been particularly rough for Melissa. There have been times that her family wasn’t sure she was going to make it and times where the stress of cancer has weighed on Melissa so heavily that she wasn’t sure she could handle it anymore. Through it all, Melissa has focused on the future. She wants to go to college and hopefully become a pediatric oncologist one day so that she can help other kids like her.
Melissa and her family aren’t giving up in the fight again children’s cancer.
UPDATE: Sadly, Melissa lost her battle against cancer and passed away in September, 2014.