Melonie Shares Her Main Advice for Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
It started in late November 2014. Melonie Wright felt itchy – everywhere. To ease her concern, she started making excuses. It’s winter so my skin is dry. Maybe I’m not drinking enough water, the 62-year-old Mason, Ohio resident thought.
A few days later, however, she stepped out of the shower and noticed a sign she couldn’t ignore: Her skin had turned yellow-orange. "I was feeling like Marge Simpson – that nice orange glow – and thought, 'Well, this can’t be good,'” she recalls.
Melonie's Doctor Uttered Two Words She Didn't Expect
She went to TriHealth Priority Care – Mason, where she was evaluated and told to get to the hospital right away; the following week was a blur. After nearly three days of diagnostic tests and meeting with doctors at Bethesda North Hospital, a CT scan revealed the unthinkable. “I never say these two words together, but I’ll say it for this. They said I had pancreatic cancer,” Melonie explains.
Resilient and determined, her first instinct was to start looking forward. She scheduled a robotic Whipple surgery with Thomas Maynard MD, of the TriHealth Surgical Institute, for Dec. 22, 2014. “When Dr. Maynard came in he was fabulous. He talked to me one-on-one and I understood exactly what he was saying, where we were going and what we were doing,” Melonie explains.
During a robotic Whipple procedure, the surgeon makes five incisions – four half-inch incisions and one three-inch incision – meaning an easier, faster recovery for the patient. (A normal Whipple, which involves a large incision across the abdomen, usually requires a 10- to 14-day hospital stay.)
Melonie Attributes Her Speedy Recovery to One Thing: Her Attitude
Melonie’s recovery was just a fraction of that. She was out of the hospital four days post-op, and credits her quick recovery to not only the advanced procedure and her “amazing” care team, but, additionally, her mindset. “A positive attitude keeps you going. The other thing it does is it keeps the doctors and nurses going. If I’m positive, they’re more likely to be positive and I’m going to get better information, better energy surrounding me, and, hey, that’s how it goes – I think,” Melonie laughs.
She started chemotherapy treatment the first week in January – a week earlier than expected. “My oncologist, Mark Andolina MD (of the TriHealth Cancer Institute), he said, ‘I’d normally wait another week, but you seem like you can do this. Want to?’”
Melonie exclaimed without hesitation, “Let’s go!”
Now, three months later, she’s nearing her last phase of treatment. She wears a fanny pack that medicates her body with chemotherapy 24-7 in conjunction with 10-minute radiation sessions, Monday through Friday.
- Related: Chemo Brain: What is It?
Grateful, Melonie Forges Ahead in Her Cancer Journey
In the meantime, she’s excited to start exercising again, after her final round of chemo finishes in June. While she hasn’t confirmed any plans, she’d love to travel, too. “A beach would be nice – and a palm tree,” she laughs.
While her cancer journey was a shocking hurdle, she can’t help but feel appreciation for her care team. “If you have to go to the hospital and be involved in something as serious as what I’ve been through, I could not ask for a better place to come to,” Melonie says. “Everybody has been so amazing, from my doctors and nurses to the transport staff and the people who come in and clean the rooms, they’ve all been wonderful. Their cheeriness and kindness has been another aid in helping me get well.”