On July 14, 2018, Melissa Hawkins and her family rented space at their church for a gathering of family and friends. They were celebrating life. Melissa was diagnosed with Glioblastoma (brain cancer), and the doctor told her that it was unlikely she would survive a year. However, despite her doctor’s prognosis, Melissa continued to defy odds and was able to celebrate surpassing this milestone with family and friends. “We had my favourite things: food, fun and friendship,” says Melissa. “And most importantly, we had chocolate cake, my favourite.”
While living in Calgary, Melissa had a case of pink eye that would not heal. After numerous tests and an MRI, she received a diagnosis of stage 4 Glioblastoma. Her mother, Esther, flew out to Calgary the next day and spent the next three months by Melissa’s side as she went through surgery and radiation. Unfortunately, Melissa’s hurdles did not stop there. Complications resulted in Melissa losing her sight, and she was told by the doctor that she would also most likely lose her ability to walk over the year. However, Melissa persevered and just like she defied her odds of survival, Melissa continues to walk.
Once radiation was completed, Melissa was able to return home to Ontario. Flying was too risky given her health, so Melissa and her sister, Susan took the train. Via Rail generously upgraded their seat to first class to ensure Melissa’s safety which made the journey an even more an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Melissa was referred to Wellspring’s Cancer Exercise program from the staff at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. She currently participates in Cancer Exercise and the Oasis Art Therapy program at Birmingham Gilgan House but looks forward to trying other programs like Nourish. “I really enjoy coming to Wellspring,” says Melissa. “I don’t like to miss any days.”
After Melissa’s surgery she suffered a series of strokes and seizures that impacted the use of the left side of her body. But the Cancer Exercise program has been helpful in strengthening and improving Melissa’s ability to use her left side. “Many people have commented on how much better Melissa has been doing,” says Esther. “Every leader that Melissa has come in contact with has been amazing.”
As a way to give back, Melissa and her sister participated in the 2018 Lace Up for Love event. Together they raised $7,000 for Wellspring and completed the 1 km route. “I like to challenge myself,” says Melissa. “We have already started fundraising for next year and have increased our fundraising goal to $10,000.”
“Wellspring has been a wonderful support for Melissa and our family,” says Esther. “It has provided us with a place of belonging and encouragement. We love the feeling of family at the centre.”
Since April, Melissa’s scans have been clear and there has been no cancer regrowth. We wish her the same results at her upcoming appointments.