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Melissa Waller: A Spirited Warrior Teaches Us All

By HERWriter Guide
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Photo: Courtesy of Melissa Waller

On Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, friends and family gathered to celebrate Melissa Waller’s 33rd birthday. Between tears and laughter they paid tribute to a courageous young woman who died on Thanksgiving Day from lung cancer.

The statistics tell us this is possible, but it still seems unreal. Waller, a fit, athletic, seemingly healthy young woman was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 31.

In her own words, here’s what she faced. “In early February 2009, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Adenocarcinoma (non small cell lung cancer). It is an extremely deadly disease and there is no cure. The cancer has metastasized to my bones, so at this point radiation and an operation is not an option to kill the tumors, they can only be used for palliative care. I will be going through Chemo over the next months in hopes that we can stop the spread of the cancer and maybe even send it to remission.”

Melissa shared her story freely in the hopes of helping others and can be found on EmpowHER
as well as her personal blog.

Titled, “The Spirited Warrior,” the blog describes her as someone “who doesn’t let obstacles define her: She reinvents the rules.” Indeed, that’s exactly what she did.

Through nearly two years of treatment, with full knowledge that her cancer was terminal, Waller made the most out of every single day. She never sugar-coated what she was experiencing, but she also didn’t milk it for sympathy. The ups and downs of rigorous chemotherapy and the toll treatments took on her body didn’t daunt her spirit, it caused her to reflect on the many gifts friends and family and life had given her and to reach for more.

Waller’s lifelong wish was to travel to New Zealand - a benefactor made that dream come true in March 2010. The advance preparations and medical emergency arrangements alone would have intimidated many people, but they weren’t obstacles for Waller, just part of a to-do list so she could savor the beaches and other highlights. http://www.themelissawaller.com/2010/03/beaches/

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HERWriter Guide

An update and invitation from Melissa's family:

We wanted to update all of Melissa’s friends and extended family of the plans to spread her ashes this summer at Lake Chelan, Washington. We encourage you all to plan a trip with your friends and family to be there; everyone is welcome. The day we have chosen to spread her ashes is Saturday July 30, 2011 this summer. Melissa’s ashes will be spread at the Lake Chelan State Park at 2:00pm in the afternoon. Here are some travel suggestions:


Fly into Seattle or Spokane, Wa. (The drive to Lake Chelan is about 3 hours from both these airports)

Chelan, Washington

The hotel we like to stay at in Chelan, WA is the Best Western Lakeside Lodge. http://www.bestwesternwashington.com/hotels/best-western-lakeside-lodge-and-suites/

Or we would encourage people to be adventurous and camp at the Lake Chelan State Park or the Lake Chelan City Park (both favorite camping areas of Melissa and our family). If you choose to camp, be sure to book your reservations now since they fill up fast. They suggest 8-9 months in advance.

State Park: http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Lake%20Chelan&subject=camping

City Park: http://www.chelancityparks.com/parks/rv/rv_park.aspx

There are also numerous boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts in town.


We also suggest spending some time in Seattle before or after Lake Chelan, if you chose to fly in there. Melissa loved downtown Seattle, the shopping, great restaurants, great bars, Pike’s place, the ferries to different islands in the Puget Sound, etc. There are many fantastic hotels to stay in right downtown that have shuttle service to and from the airport. If you stay downtown, you will not need a rental car since you can walk everywhere downtown. You should only need a car to get to, from, and around Lake Chelan.

Please contact one of the family members or post a response on Melissa's blog at http://www.themelissawaller.com/home/ so we can contact you if you are interested in coming. We hope you can make it to get to know the amazing beauty and fun of this place.

March 16, 2011 - 1:25pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.