|Melinda and her dog Lucky, from her website|
Melinda Rose Hathaway was a young woman who died of a rare form of cancer in 1996, at the age of 15. What makes her my hero is her sense of hope and joy in life, and her efforts at creating a website to give hope and encouragement to Cancer Kids (her term) and their caregivers, as well as her gentle insistence on being known as a person, not a patient.
Melinda was diagnosed with Askin's Tumor at the age of twelve years old. The prognosis for Askin's is always terminal, and Melinda's tumor was found at an advanced state. The doctors did not believe that Melinda would survive more than one or two weeks after the diagnosis.
Instead of letting her illness get her down, Melinda fought back with everything that she had. Undergoing radiation treatments, and all of the misery that goes with it, Melinda went into a partial remission, and then she began her true life's calling. Melinda spent a lot of time talking with other young cancer patients in the hospital. In the words of her father, David, "Her zest for life, her will to live, her unending hope, and her genuine caring let her achieve what many people only ever dream about - she reached out and restarted other peoples hearts."
Melinda lived with Askin's tumor for more than three years. During that time she touched many hearts and lives, Cancer Kids, their caregivers, and an entire world of people through the World Wide Web, where she and her father put up a website to provide information and hope for other families dealing with cancer in their lives. Her website was filled with links, thought provoking pages, personal information, and fun. Her wish was that the site provide a safe haven on the web for Cancer Kids. Her brother, David Jr., made this wish a reality, and Melinda's spirit lives on in all she touched.
It was through her site that I found her. Somebody sent me the link, and I went to see it, and spent hours digging through each page. An online community that I am a part of was so astounded by her courage and her vitality even in the face of a terminal illness, that we declared her our "Patron Saint", and sent her an email telling her so. This began a correspondence with her brother David, as Melinda was by that time too ill to spend much time at all online. Melinda passed away on September 15, 1996, and David emailed me to let me know that she had died. The sense of loss and grief in our little internet community was deep, profound, and real. In living, Melinda touched many lives. In death, she continues to do so, still providing hope and a laugh to all who visit her site and spend a little while getting to know her. She is a true hero, somebody who refused to let her illness kill her spirit, somebody who used it instead as a ladder to climb to heights of the spirit that most people can only hope to reach. I thank God that Melinda was here, even if only for a short time.