Around December 1995, Melody’s parent’s noticed she developed a limp in her left leg and began falling. Being a 16 month old toddler, this was not too much out of the norm. The strange limp persisted, so they took her to their pediatrician who sent her to an orthopedist, but nothing could be found wrong with her leg. It was then suggested they see a neurologist. February 17, 1995, their world changed forever. The neurologist could tell by one look at Melody that something was very wrong. He admitted her to the hospital and ordered her a brain scan to be done immediately. By that evening Melody’s parents were told she had a lemon size tumor in her tiny 18 month old brain and that she would not live to see the year through. To say the least this news was devastating and their minds went numb. Surgery was done to try to remove as much tumor as possible, but it was a limited task with only partial removal due to the sensitive location near her brain stem. Melody’s parents and their medical team then decided to enroll Melody into a chemotherapy study to try and beat the odds. Thus began numerous hospital stays, near death emergencies, low blood counts, an aneurysm and isolation. It was terrible watching this beautiful baby suffer and her family suffered along with her. With time, Melody’s parents were able to achieve a peace and a hope that they were going to live joyfully regardless of the circumstances and they instilled this into Melody. When she was in pain or scared they would sing songs of hope to fill her soul. A year and a half of chemo achieved short term remission, when soon after, her tumor began to grow again and she had to go back on chemo for another year and a half. By this time she was five years old and ready to begin kindergarten. Melody and her family began attending a local camp for children dealing with cancer. This place helped them feel supported and was a wonderful escape. Life was smooth sailing for about four years until at nine years old Melody’s tumor “woke up” and it was time to try Gamma Knife radiation. Remission was achieved and life went on happily until the tumor “woke up” again at the age of 12. This time, Melody received 6 weeks of radiation therapy to her brain. Although the tumor was put back into remission, it was realized soon after that she suffered cognitive brain damage from the radiation. Her life would never be the same going forward. Tumor remission was achieved, but she lost her motivation, working memory, cognitive speed, and most importantly to a teenager, a level of independence. She would never be able to drive and she felt herself slipping away from her peers. This changed who she and her family dreamed she could be. They all had to grieve for many years until they could accept Melody’s “new normal”. School plans had to be adapted, life plans had to change. Once again, life went on, Melody adapted with resilience. She graduated high school, volunteered at the children’s cancer camp she once attended as a patient, achieved a certificate in college, and took up crafting. In 2015 at the age of 21, a cyst began to grow on Melody’s remaining tumor, a side effect from the old radiation. It began to push on her brain and cause weakness in her arm and leg once again. Her neurosurgeon planned to remove the cyst only, as total removal of the tumor would likely still be too dangerous. After surgery not only did the doctor remove the cyst, but was confident and skilled enough to actually and finally remove Melody’s entire tumor. She recovered at a rehab center and regained her strength. She now enjoys life as an artist making jewelry and journals, selling them at craft fairs and on Etsy. She was recently approved to receive independent life skills rehabilitation and training. She continues to live with her faith, her joyful spirit, her contagious smile, using the overcoming of her trials to inspire others with hope.
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