Throughout Melanie’s collection of photographs are pictures of a community of family and friends with smiles as big and radiant as hers. One picture is of a small smiling crowd huddled with Melanie around a cake smothered with blue frosting and the words “Fight Like a Girl” scripted on the top. The picture makes you wonder what in the world could this beautiful young girl be challenged by. When you meet Melanie in person you are sure that there must be some mistake – that she certainly has no worries. You become certain that this lovely young lady who jumps out of her chair to begin twirling and dancing with the ease and grace of a ballerina could not possibly be facing anything fearful. But you would be wrong.
Melanie has myxopapillary ependymoma.
It started with back pain. After a couple trips to their local hospital, Melanie’s parents decided to take her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It was there that an MRI revealed a tumor on Melanie’s spine. She was diagnosed with filum terminale myxopapillary ependymoma, a slow-growing tumor that grows from brain and spinal cord supportive tissue.
Melanie underwent surgery for total removal of the tumor. However, she has another tumor in her lower spine and three brain tumors. At this point, the plan is to monitor Melanie closely. She has a brain and spinal MRI every three months. If there is a change in the size of the tumors she will most likely undergo chemotherapy or proton radiation.
Each year, more than 150 patients are diagnosed with cancer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and approximately 270 new childhood cancer patients are managed here. Annually, inpatient admissions and outpatient visits exceed 13,000 in total. The Division of Hematology, Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is the largest facility of its kind in Ohio and one of the largest in the United States.
“Nationwide Children’s is the reason we were able to determine the source of Melanie’s pain. Dr. Leonard played a crucial role in finding the tumor and deciding on a course of action. He brought in another doctor, Dr. Sribnick, who would perform the surgery and become our primary neurosurgeon. He, along with all of the nurses on the 10th floor, were a Godsend. They were so caring and helpful. We cannot express enough how thankful we are to have found such a wonderful place to endure this horrible tragedy. NCH is the best hospital!!!” says Melanie’s mom, Marci.
While Melanie is in this wait and watch mode, she is participating in her favorite things as best she can. These include volleyball, school cheerleading, and, yes, competition dance. She also enjoys tutoring younger students and sharing her big heart with others, which is exactly what she will be doing as she cheers on the participants as they pass through her mile during the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon.
Teams paired with Melanie:
- Dublin Coffman
- Gahanna Lincoln
- St. Xavier