She was diagnosed with lung cancer six months before I found out I had breast cancer--back in 2007. Melissa came back to work in April 2008 after undergoing surgery, chemo and radiation. On her first day back, she walked into our Monday morning staff meeting. Everyone stood up and began clapping, but Melissa walked straight towards me. She handed me a gift bag and gave me a huge hug. I didn't know what to say.
Melissa and everyone else knew I was about to go on the same journey she did. After the meeting, I opened the bag. Inside there were two books about battling cancer. Melissa wrote a note on the inside of each book cover. There was also a box with a silver bracelet that had a Pandora angel charm on it. Melissa wrote in a card that she was giving me that angel to watch over me as I battled cancer.
I looked down at my Pandora bracelet all day today. As I touch and twirl the Guardian angel charm, I am beginning to think that from now on I will call this charm Sweet Melissa.
For awhile both Melissa and I wore wigs. But as time went on I got my hair back. Melissa never did, because her cancer spread to her brain. Her head had to be radiated on so many times, her hair never grew back entirely. There were permanent bald patches that were the scars from lasers. I know this is true because I never did get the hair back under my left arm pitt where I was radiated on. But that cannot compare to Melissa'a hair issues.
Everyday for more than five years, Melissa waged a war against cancer. There were endless cat scans, chemo treatments and surgeries. She was on a continuous roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. After a couple years all that eventually stopped for me. Not so for Melissa. But she continued to remain upbeat and even got married just last August.
It was only about six weeks after that when she posted on facebook for the last time: "When you need to rest, just lay down and rest," she wrote. Shortly after that, she went into the Smilow Cancer hospital never to return home. She was on a breathing tube for quite some time. Last week they administered her last chemo treatment. I guess that is part of what did her in.
Five years ago there were two women in an office who found out they had cancer. Both of them fought like hell to get well. For awhile, they walked together on the same difficult road. But today, one of those women died. The other woman is still alive. That woman is me. For whatever reason, God took Melissa and spared me. I don't understand why this is. But I have looked to the heavens to tell Melissa how she inspired all of us with her strength and courage. And I thank God for giving me a second chance at life.