#Melstrong – Fight Against Cancer
GALION – The Wheeler family had to adjust to more than a troubling medical diagnosis this fall when doctors discovered 12-year-old Melanie had a chronic form of cancer that started in her spine.
“We’re very private people, and we’re always the ones helping everybody else,” Melanie’s mom, Marci Wheeler, said. “We’re the helpers, not the ‘helpees,’ so this is foreign to us. We’ve never had help. Ever.”
That all changed after a trip to the emergency room on Oct. 20. An MRI showed that Melanie had four tumors. She had back surgery that Thursday to have one of the tumors removed, and in the process, part of the bone was removed to get the tumor out of the spinal cavity, according to Marci.
“She has a total of four tumors, minus the one that was removed,” Marci said. “Two on her brain, and one left on her spine.”
Marci said Melanie has an adult form of cancer that usually affects men between the ages of 25 to 35.
“The original plan of action was to go to a proton radiation center,” Marci said. “After seeing two oncologists, they thought that instead of rushing into radiation therapy, we should wait a little while.”
Tom Wheeler, Melanie’s dad, said they’re putting off radiation for as long as possible because it could affect her brain development. The longer the doctors can wait for radiation, the better off Melanie will be because her brain will be able to develop more, according to Tom and Marci.
“It’s hard to talk about all the time,” Tom said. “Every day of brain development is positive for us.”
Melanie may be fighting a life-long form of cancer, but she still has a sense of humor. She asked the News Journal if she could tell a funny story.
“Can I tell you something funny?” Melanie said. “When the (doctor) said he had to take the bone out, I said, ‘hey, I need that.’ He said, ‘well, you don’t technically need this part of the bone.’ I’m like, ‘OK, can I keep it?’ He just looked at me like, ‘I’ve never been asked this question before.'”
Bri Wheeler, Melanie’s sister, said the doctor took a picture of the tumor after it was removed, and sent it to the family.
“He sent the picture of the tumor, and then (Melanie) asked if she could touch it,” Marci said. “He didn’t let her touch it.”
The Wheeler family is adjusting to the abundance of community support, but they’re thankful for it. Marci and Bri said the town has benefit events planned to help the family until next November. The next event will be a spaghetti dinner at Galion Middle School from 3-7 p.m. on Dec. 12.
Marci said the family doesn’t know about a lot of the benefit events because Angela Heckert organized a committee to come up with ways to help the Wheelers.
“(The support) is overwhelming and humbling, if you can find a mix between those two words, that’s what it is,” Marci said. “There are no words for it. Overwhelming doesn’t even come close to explaining it.”
Tom said Galion Middle School has been accommodating Melanie in every way possible to make school comfortable for her. She has a comfy chair in every classroom, and classmates and school staff help her travel from class to class by helping her carry her backpack and books.
“We want to thank the community, the committee and the school system, and everybody that’s saying prayers for us,” Tom said. “Keep it up. We need all of the prayers we can get.”
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Cost is $5.00 each.