At age 22, Melissa discovered a lump in her neck. While we desperately hoped for the best, we were devastated to hear the diagnosis. Melissa had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma..CANCER at 22 years old. She immediately began chemotherapy and although a light treatment, she did get very sick, and her hair thinned out to where she eventually cut it. She spent a good deal of time at the hospital, yet still continued to work full time as well as continue her classes at Towson University. Upon finishing her chemo, the cancer was gone and life began to return to normal. After 3 years of remission, Melissa once again found a lump and we once again heard the word CANCER. Her Hodgkin’s Lymphoma had returned. Melissa’s second round of chemo was much more aggressive. She received the most potent chemo available, intense radiation and underwent a bone marrow transplant, stem cell transplant and a lung biopsy. While incredibly painful for Melissa, she never lost her smile. We spent most of the time at the hospital and tried to make the very best of it, yet Melissa was often times the stronger one. During this second round with cancer, she succeeded in graduating from Towson with a 3.7 GPA and was accepted into the Anne Arundel Medical College Nursing Program. Being a nurse was always her dream and it made perfect sense as she was the first to help anyone in need. All of these accomplishments, putting herself through college, beating cancer TWICE, her admission into a nursing program, were shadowed in 2012 when a tingling on her legs grew until she was tripping and dragging her feet, often to the point of falling. Doctors and tests revealed that she had developed an extremely rare neurological disease called Transverse Myelitis in which the immune system attacks its spinal cord. By rare, only 3 per every MILLION people are affected. There is no known specific cause of this disease, nor is there any cure. Some doctors and studies believe this disease comes from specific immunizations, some are clueless. One thing we do know is TRANSVERSE MYELITIS DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE!! Awareness must be raised. We have seen baby's, teens, adults, and seniors end up with TM and its heart wrenching. We may never know the root cause of this disease. We also as of right now do not know how much of the damage to her spinal cord is permanent. Currently Melissa is paralyzed from the chest down and is confined to a wheelchair. Simple everyday tasks, we take for granted, she cannot perform unassisted, including getting in and out of bed and going to the bathroom, and even just getting a simple glass of water. Melissa cannot work. Unfortunately in the State of Maryland she does not qualify for any government funded assistance. Being too young for Medicare, and with no children, she cannot even receive food stamps. She gets an $700 a month check from disability but that is gone before it ever arrives. Food, utilities, rent, transportation and medical supplies must all be paid out of that one stipend. While Melissa still stays as strong as she can, the past 7 years have taken their tole. There are times she simply retreats and isolates. This is frightening as stress can trigger TM to spread and if it was able to ultimately cross her brain barrier, it could kill her. She recently began physical therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and this has helped her mental state some. Our goal for Melissa would be to find her more accommodating living arrangements. If she was able to live in a fully handicap accessible home, I believe her spirits would lift dramatically. Another dream would be to raise enough to put hand controls on Melissa's car. She hasn't been able to drive in over a year and having to depend on everyone else to get her from place to place is just not ideal. I wish I could personally thank every person who has given money, sent a card or email of well wishes, asked about Melissa’s progress, or even said a prayer. While the community has come together to support Melissa, that money goes so quickly. I would also like to help raise awareness about Transverse Myelitis as it is such and unknown and relatively unstudied disease. There is studies and procedures that are in the "works" but TM gets NO funding because it is SO rare so I would love to help raise awareness and funding on that end as well. We will continue to share her story until I accomplish my goal of raising awareness and have my sister in a comfortable living place and financially and mentally stable. We write to all shows Ellen, Steve Harvey, Oprah etc... WE WONT STOP! Any donation of any amount is appreciated and much needed. Cards and letters also help to lift Melissa’s spirits as she continues to stay strong and we all continue to hold fast to the belief that one day she will walk again. Thank you for your time and consideration in reading this and God bless you all!
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