Hello everyone. I figured this is the best way I can update everyone without making individual phone calls and such. So with everything I find out and everything I know and want people to know.. I will update as best I can, and most likely through here so I can be as lengthy as I want. (ha)
Today has been a roller coaster. Actually, these past couple of months have been a roller coaster. What started off as just a meaningless lump, grew to many tests and a lot of anxiety to the possibility of cancer. Being logical me, I prepared myself for the worst this past month as I was nearing CT scans, ultrasounds, a biopsy, etc. It’s taken me a lot of prayer, and I mean a lot.
These past few months haven’t been my best faith-wise, either. But through this “scare” (at the time) I felt myself getting closer to God through all my anxiety. That always seems to be the case, doesn’t it? The feeling of hopelessness and lack of control always leads you to someone who is— God. In one of my journal entries (after my pages of begging God that I hope I really don’t have cancer), I ended with telling him that even if I feel crazy and scared.. I’m so grateful He has pulled me in so close, especially when I have been so far away lately.
This is how I know God is good: that He will so willingly create something in the most personal parts of our lives— jobs, school, ministry, relationships, friendships, and sickness to draw us in closer to Him. I say this every chance I get.. but in Evan Almighty (yes I’m going to quote from Evan Almighty) “God” in the movie explains that God will not give you strength, courage, etc.. but He will give you opportunities to be strong, to be courageous. Here.. God has created an opportunity for me to be both, but more importantly He’s created an opportunity to be closer to Him, to trust Him, and to feel Him… all things I’ve been too stubborn lately to accept.
So if you’re looking for more details on me.. I will just say that yes, I do have cancer. A supposed very rare and aggressive cancer. I don’t have as many details as I would like to have.. but for now in this early stage of diagnosis.. that is all I know.
Let’s leave that at that. Obviously, I’m asking for prayers. But more importantly.. I know God is using me for His Greater Glory. (As He is always doing with everyone & everything) Which is why, I hope this life-threatening disease I have creates an opportunity for all my friends and family to journey closer to the Cross as I am doing and continuing to do. I hope friends and family who have been far from prayer and Christ can wake up and change their lives and bring themselves back to Church and living the Gospel. In your prayers for me— I hope you discover for yourself that a relationship with God is vital. That is what I truly ask for in this difficult time.
People ask.. “if there’s anything I can do, please let me know.” Thank you for that. To be honest, it’s simple.. and I think anyone dealing with a life-threatening disease can attest to this: I just want to be treated normal. I don’t want my situation to be the center of our conversation.. I want to laugh.. I want to live.. while having your support and your prayers. Cause as strong as I am appearing in this post.. I can be easily heartbroken and I can cry just at the thought of what is happening. So, obviously this is a sensitive time. And if I don’t respond to a message or a phone call.. please don’t be offended. But I assure you I am reading them all, and I appreciate it greatly.
Here’s to a long journey, and an interesting 23rd birthday this weekend. Thank you ahead of time for your prayers, support, and thoughts.
God is good! SO SO good. I refuse to let the devil consume me in fear and depression and to allow me to mope around and to not live the valuable minutes God gives me. Neither should you, with anything you go through.
Love you ALL!! Thank you! Let’s do this. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam— for the Greater Glory of God!
"Lord if You are willing, take this cup away, yet not MY will but YOUR will be done."
A year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. A golf ball size tumor in my right jaw read “malignant” on my biopsy report and that moment will forever be the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever experienced. It is unreal to think that it has been a year today, but I’m grateful to be able to say that it’s 2014 for me and I am without cancer! One thing I know for sure, is that last year with the vagueness of my diagnosis, I had no idea the circumstances of my cancer and if/when my time would be cut short and be cut short soon. So writing that blog was so scary, but I’m glad I did it.
Reflecting on last years post is insane to read. I have read it again from time to time and it is quite the trip to think I had that kind of courage to find that strength within myself and take that leap into a journey I knew would be rough. I know that hidden strength was God, and it gives me chills to know how present He can be in such empty moments. I remember that night and thinking how I had been keeping the months and months of tests and anxiety to myself and close friends, and how I didn’t want to share anything with anyone. But once I was diagnosed, I remembered how I felt like I needed the aspect of fellowship and communal prayer to uplift me and petition me to God. I remember feeling like I had two choices: to keep this to myself or to tell everyone and ask for prayers. I choose to write that blog and tell everyone.
I am so grateful I did. I have been blessed with such insane amount of prayers and support from close friends, old friends, acquaintances, and strangers that have all individually uplifted me in the changes I had endured in this past year. I am forever grateful for that.
One thing is for sure: I had definitely fulfilled everything I had said in that blog I wrote a year ago. I put on the armor of Christ and continued to live in knowing that He is bigger than this, is bigger than fear, and is bigger than anything on this earth. His plan and His will is still being discovered within me everyday. I know I will never fully understand the Cross of having cancer, but without a doubt I have been grateful for the task, and have found His glory in so many new ways because of it. I know God has renewed me and my relationship with Him after I had become so stagnant and comfortable in my faith. For that, I’m humbled and continue to give myself to Him, even if it has not been easy.
I’m glad to say I will be celebrating my 24th birthday this weekend :) and I’ll be giving a talk on a retreat talking about my journey in trusting God’s will for me in this past year. Such good timing! I can definitely use prayers for that. Praise God for His goodness, seriously. He has led me to a hospital I love, and I see his face in every doctor, nurse, and patient I’ve met along the way. I had a huge, complicated, but successful surgery. And persevered through painful radiation treatments. It’s been a crazy year. But I am humbled and blessed by God’s love and mercy.
Please continue to pray for me. Cancer is tricky, and I still have moments of fear that it can come back. And please continue to pray for those struggling with cancer or recurring cancer. I have met many people, especially my age, who are still struggling with this, and I ask that you pray for them and that they may find peace through God’s love and healing.
Thank you for being my prayer warriors this past year :) I am so blessed and I thank you for every single word of support you’ve given me.
Anonymous asked: Update please!
Alive and well, my friend.
- Thyroid problems. Radiation to the neck has caused some thyroid problems which we are monitoring.
- ^ That has caused some auto-immune problems. I get hives very very often. It’s a little depressing.
- Getting my next routine scan in December.
- Swelling on my face is significantly down.
- Rotation/movement on my neck is significantly better.
- Legs after surgery are stronger but still give me trouble. (Can’t run, trouble with many stairs, can’t get myself up easily when I’m sitting on the floor)
- Paralysis on my bottom right lip is actually improving.
- I’m getting dentures for my 5 missing teeth very soon!
- I’m back in serving in ministry and just came back from a wonderful retreat.
Thanks for asking! :)
I posted this status around 3pm today.
“Hello there! I forgot to update on my past few scans’ results. Been blessed to have a CT scan and a PET scan that indicated no return of cancer. (Praise The Lord!) We have been nervous because a new lump in my neck, on the same side as the cancer in my jaw was, has been present lately. But by God’s grace we have only had good news lately. There’s still no indication what is and I’ll be following up with that soon. My surgeon seems to think it’s a lymph node, but she didn’t confirm that. I was confused because I had 40 lymph nodes removed at surgery but I still had some left in there I guess ha She kept reassuring me I shouldn’t be worried, and I took that as if God was speaking that to me through her. But if you could send prayers, I’m sitting in the waiting room, about to have a biopsy done to rule everything out for sure. Pray for this procedure and the results to come. God is good and our hope is in Him! #beatcancer #amdg”
Lately, I’ve felt a lump in my neck, the same side where I had surgery and my tumor was. Naturally, I have been worried sick to my stomach to the thought of having cancer again. So I ran some tests, the CT and PET showed no signs of cancer anywhere. The lump had some metal look to it on the scans. (I have many metal clips in my neck from surgery) So, doctors told me not to worry, so I didn’t! I remembered that dark and scary place of fear I was in last year, and told myself to snap out of it, give it to God like before, and let His will be done.. whatever that was.
So, today I went to my biopsy completed light hearted. I joked around with doctors, tech’s and nurses because I felt comfortable with this procedure and the waiting that was going to happen. The procedure is, to remove samples of that lump and examine it to see if there are cancer cells present. But after all I’ve been through, today just felt like a regular day.
So the doctor who was going to do the procedure, along with the ultra sound tech’s, were all a bit perplexed on what this was. They were running an ultrasound on it, and It had a circle shape with a bunch of gray dots around it, with blood inside it, like a vessel. Um what? Even I couldn’t figure out what that could be.
So my surgeon came and looked at it too.. and then said, “Oh my goodness. I’m so stupid.” She started banging her head on the wall. (Not kidding) She had a smile though, so I knew this was going to be good. She then said, “I’m so stupid! Dr. Anderson, the other surgeon, placed this metal device to connect your veins together from your fibula to your neck. It just dawned on me now. ” Then she explained. Hahaha. Oh man, I have never felt that relieved and have laughed that hard in a while. So, naturally we all high-fived because we figured it out.. and that I have nothing to worry about.
The swelling in my neck has gone down, which is why I have been able to feel it just recently. But, now I know it’s just another clip in my neck! An important clip that connects that vein together, ha.
Praise God for moments of joy! .. and humor! If you surrender your fears to Him, He will do great things.
Again, God is good.
Also, my surgeon says I should celebrate and urges me to get a bottle of wine and do so. I’m taking wine donations, thanks ;)
And THANK YOU FOR PRAYING!
This past Sunday, I was moved by Fr. Tom’s reflection of the Gospel. The Gospel, Luke 12:32-48, talks about those who know the Father’s will, but do not act according to it. In other words, those who know the right thing to do, yet do the opposite, in reference to God and what pleases Him.
So Fr. Tom turned that into a, living everyday like it was your first and your last, kind of homily. Which is what I took from the Gospel myself. He said something which I chuckled at because he described a young girls battle with cancer, and how she gets so frustrated when family or friends complain about “stupid” things or do stupid and careless things.
Story of my life.
I remember coming back from the hospital, I couldn’t bare to look at Twitter or Facebook because people were complaining about idiotic things, while I had just gone through a lifetime of an emotional journey within the course of a month. I remember watching Keeping up with the Kardashians and feeling like I wanted to backhand all of them for complaining about the dumbest things when I had just came home from a hospital where people are fighting for their lives.
Sidenote: I’m not better than anyone. Cancer does not make my struggle superior than anyone else’s. But complaining about traffic like it’s your biggest hurdle in life…… you get it.
Then, Fr. Tom talked about how he hopes “everyone has that life or death experience. Where they feel like they are shaking hands with their Maker.”
That was beautiful.
I remember that day I was diagnosed like it was an hour ago. I remember praying for days, going to countless masses throughout the week, praying dozens of Rosary’s, before I walked into my doctor’s office and heard my news. I sat there for an hour by myself, twiddling my thumbs, until my doctor (who is not a pleasant man & is no longer my doctor) came in and let out a big sigh, told me my news in a tone that made me feel like I had a week left to live. (Haha) So after days of crying about what I had, I remember, of course, thinking that the worst was to come.. and soon.
When Fr. Tom said those words, I got that flashback. I remember that time period of getting diagnosed and having my cancer surgery a month later, was the time I was shaking hands with my Maker. Where life was precious, temptation stood no chance against me, and I lived that month thinking time was short for me.
Then I heard all my cancer was removed. Then I had radiation which prevents it even more from coming back. Then I had a clear CT scan a month later. Then things are now as normal as it could be.
What a blessing that is— being normal. It comes with a curse, however. Resuming back to normality is what I desired in January. Being normal is a cancer itself. Normal, according to society, is carelessness, is being ungrateful, is being selfish, is being self-centered, is being oblivious, is being sinful. And this blessing God gave me, has come with it’s own temptations of living a life opposite of His will for me.
What’s beautiful is.. God is a loving God. A God who gave me choices. And while temptation is inevitable, Jesus has died on a Cross so that I may choose His path at the crossroads of good and evil. God has broken these chains so that I may be able to have the perks of normality, while also choosing to live for Him and not for evil. Thank you for the Cross, Jesus!
My biggest prayer is to live with gratitude of being without cancer, to continuously feel the prize of life, to live for Him, to follow His will, and to always feel within arms reach of my maker while having the blessing of “normality.”
Pray for me as I will for you!
PS. Happy to say I’m returning back to ministry. Can’t wait to start serving again! I know God has a lot for me to offer back to Him.
#AMDG- Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam; For the Greater Glory of God.
Hi! I was trying to figure out what I talked about in my last blog.. and that was the day before my radiation. My how things have changed since then!
- Happy to report that I feel great. Sores are gone! I have one that is taking its time healing and gives me trouble when I am drinking/eating or talking. Other than that, NO PAIN. Wow, I love saying that when the nurses ask during my visits!
- My diet is expanding and I am discovering food all over again. Since I lost all my taste during radiation.. they are slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) coming back. I’ve been on the soup diet and I am pushing myself to soft foods. The saliva production is low in my mouth so dry food is extremely hard to eat. But that, and my taste are improving ever so slowly. But, progress is progress. I’ll take it!
- Still losing weight. I’m at -45lbs now believe it or not.
- A physical therapist at City of Hope gave me a Therabite device to help with my jaw movement. The radiation+surgery made the area really stiff and I need to improve on opening my mouth so I can have a burger one day :)
- I got routine scans done on 6/21 on my chest/neck. My type of cancer is known for spreading to the lungs next, so I was nervous for this scan. Instead of being as nervous as a wreck as I was before.. I gave the unknown to God and already said yes to whatever the results would be. Found out this past Monday that the scans on my lungs were clear of any suspicion of anything. Woop! Praise God!
- I go to Disneyland about 3 times a week.. that’s when you know I’m doing well. Granted, I’m in a wheelchair since holding the posture of my neck is still tiring.. but atleast I get to be at one of my favorite places :)
- Oh yeah, I’m going to Vegas this weekend! I’ve been pretty homebound lately so it’s nice to get a vacation and celebrate life, success, engagements, graduations etc with friends.
God is good. Things have been so uphill after all the downhill lately. Grateful for life, health, the people I’ve met, the bonds that have been tighter, and the evidence of God’s love that has been revealed in such special ways.
Continuing the hopes of more healing, more normal living, and uphill progress.
2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Please continue to pray for all those battling diseases like cancer, especially those who haven’t found the rest in God that they need. Pray for my wonderful hospital, the staff, patients and family who are battling this hard disease.
Anonymous asked: How do you feel about people who smoke?
Oh, random question, ha.
Well, this is my personal opinion.. and anyone who chooses to smoke is their choice and I don’t interfere with that.
Everyone knows I hate smoking, I’ve been saying that since I was little. I begged my aunts/uncles to stop smoking because I loved them too much to choose that kind of damage. In high school I remember crying when my friends would smoke because it made me so sad, haha. I just hate it.
NOW, it bothers me even more because it’s a personal choice people are making to damage their health. They know they are risking heart disease, cancer, and dying younger. They make that choice. I never risked myself for cancer with smoking.. yet I still got cancer anyway. So you can see how that’s a little unfair, that people had a choice and I didn’t.
That’s my personal opinion :) I hope it inspires people to STOP SMOKING CAUSE IT’S DISGUSTING. Haha.
Thanks for asking!
notarealsn21 asked: Hey Melissa, You may or may not remember me, I'm Adrian. I used to say hi to you every so often when we were younger. i literally just found out about your cancer because i was just thinking about you out here in Afghanistan. I really hope your doing alright and getting better everyday. Please take care of yourself.. Sending my prayers out for you. - Adrian Rodriguez.
Thank you! :)
jessicatomilloso asked: hey meesa! i just read your life update and although we were never really more than mere acquaintances, i just wanted to let you know that i will be keeping you in my prayers. your strong faith and love for life is so inspiring and i hope that one day i can obtain half of the faith, grace patience and optimism you contain. god bless <3
THANK YOU so much. I’m just now reading these. I appreciate it.
I’m so happy to say that by tomorrow afternoon, I would have completed 30 radiation treatments. The treatments were preventative, in case any micro cancer cells were left behind. Which made the painful experience very hard to persevere through, because it was only “preventative.” I tried quitting several times, the last one last week being the most serious I ever was about quitting. I went to the doctor and told him that I was in too much pain and discomfort to keep going and I was completely set on stopping my treatments at the “23” mark. He did a very good job at convincing me to continue, and I sighed and said fine.
I went into my “24th” treatment right after that discussion.. and as I was laying on the platform to get ready for treatment, I started bawling my eyes out. My radiologist held me for what felt like an hour and kept telling me that “everything will be okay” and to “have faith.” I said I was ready and we did that treatment, although I cried throughout the whole thing.
Radiation was a painful experience. It may seem like a small deal if I told you that it was because of “mouth sores,” (which it was) but this pain was just unbearable.
My diet changed. I drink “Boost” which is just a nutritional drink, very similar to the liquid I had to consume through my feeding tube when I was unable to eat after surgery. But, that’s pretty much all I am able to eat (or drink?). I lost around 35 pounds since surgery, a lot of it due to radiation’s side effects. I lost all my sense of taste. I barely produce saliva, and if I do, it’s extremely thick. I can barely talk as well. I usually just hum and point at things to communicate.
I’m glad to say, though, tomorrow after treatment I can begin healing from all this pain and I can look forward to what’s next.
About that.. what is next?
That has been the scariest part. I know the immediate response is: well, check up appointments, scans every couple months, bloodwork, happy cancer free life. However, lately I’ve been hoping and praying that the plan is truly just that. I’ve been talking to friends who have dealt with cancer before.. and they say it’s completely normal to fear that your cancer will come back. I would be lying if I said my head wasn’t already consumed by that thought.
So again, I am REJOICING that this chapter of radiation is OVER. And I pray and pray that I will continue to live in hope in the Lord and hope in His healing, as He has healed me now. I pray my future and health will continue to be without this horrible disease. i miss church, I miss ministry, and I still have so much to do for my God, I know it.
May God continue to bless all those who feel discouraged with ANYTHING. May we ALL find hope in His love, His grace, His mercy, and His healing.
Join me in celebrating radiation being over :) I’m ecstatic. Please continue praying for me and my recovery from these treatments. Please also pray for the scans I will have within the next month. I am anxiously awaiting the word “remission.” “Thank you! God bless you all.
All glory to God,
Ps. Me quitting radiation didn’t make sense. I’m no quitter. Told y’all I’m a fighter.
"…Because After ALL the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then a torn achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever." - Kobe Bryant
Super cheesy.. but the whole Kobe ordeal has totally made me realize how necessary “Mamba mentality” (as he calls it) is in life. The determination, the drive, the hope, the humility and the confidence is all vital in making it through anything. Thanks for that lesson Kobe! ;)
I guess I just haven’t updated in a while? So I’ll just bullet point what’s been up lately!
- For a while I was just doing check up appointments as I’m still healing (and will continue to be in ‘healing’ mode for months and months and months). A lot of it was meeting my new oncologist, who is amazing. Meeting my radiology team, who is also amazing. It’s a lot of prepping for radiation. So I heard a lot of the side effects.. dry mouth.. tight jaw.. tight neck.. tired.. possible nausea.. maybe even losing some hair in the area. I heard it all over and over for a while.. I was getting a little sick of the repetition. But they definitely prepped me mentally before starting!
- During this whole time (even since my surgery) I’ve been doing physical therapy to learn how to walk again with my non-fibula legs. I got rid of the boots that helped me walk, and began walking on my bare feet like 4 weeks ago? I’ve been getting stronger and I can walk just fine, just really weak. That’s great news! My PT just works with my neck & jaw, since that’s where all the swelling is. They took out 44 lymph nodes, so that dissection leaves a lot of weakness in the neck.. and my jaw of course is where the whole surgery took place. My PT has been a blessing, and she’s always the best part of my day. Yup, getting stronger! Oh and here’s a picture of my jaw and legs!
- Oh yeah! and I can eat most foods now! :) Just can’t open my mouth enough to really bite into a burger. Hard to eat with 5 teeth missing!
- Radiation started last Wednesday. I go everyday, 5 days a week for 6 weeks = 30 treatments. I have 4 down now. Radiation is (so far) a breeze. It’s 15 minutes long, and I just lay in a little tube and get zapped while wearing this uncomfortable mask, ha. But the worst part is definitely the side effects and discomfort my neck feels after. It’s not that bad (now) but it definitely tightens up my muscles and I get uncomfortable throughout the day. But.. so far so good! 4 down and 26 more to go!
God has been great in giving me the exact tools and people I need throughout the day to feel good about myself and positive about my situation. I’m grateful for this current chapter I’m in and for everything going as smoothly as it is. I continue to pray that once this is over, that this struggle can be behind me and I can look forward again to the many plans I have for my life.
Mamba mentality, y’all. #beatcancer #amdg