“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
These words have never rung truer than they did for Melissa Wood in March of 2013. Melissa, Chief Administrative Officer at Burns & McDonnell, wife, and mother of three, hadn’t been feeling well since the previous December. She told her doctor at that point, “Just make sure I don’t have ovarian cancer, and then we’ll work on something else.”
Unlike many women who are diagnosed with the disease, Melissa had seen it up close and was aware of the symptoms. Her best friend had lost her mother to ovarian cancer, so she was all too familiar with its gravity. And although Melissa didn’t have a previous history in her family, her mom was diagnosed with the disease six months after she was.
Following a clear scan that December, all remaining indicators pointed to Melissa’s gall bladder, and she had it removed that month. During the next several weeks, her symptoms failed to subside, and by March of 2013, a scan detected an ovarian cancer tumor, and she was referred to The University of Kansas Cancer Center for surgery and chemotherapy. Melissa states, “I can’t say enough great things about Dr. Julia Chapman (her oncologist). She’s just incredible.” Since the conclusion of those therapies, Melissa has monthly blood tests to measure her CA-125 (an ovarian cancer marker), is participating in a Vitamin C trial, and had a CT scan in July of this year that came back clear. “It’s tricky,” explains Melissa. “I feel good, tests say I’m well, people see me and think ‘she’s fine now.’ But anyone who has had cancer knows you feel it looming every single day…am I really well? That’s hard.”
The Generosity of People was Overwhelming
Yet, says Melissa, “I think the one thing that I point to, that has been kind of the eye opener for me in all of this, is the generosity of the people around me. That was overwhelming – the meals that came, the people, gifts, and cards that just keep coming. That, I think, took me aback. I went out one day last spring just to get out of my head and out of sight, and my flowers had already been planted.”
And during it all, her kids have been champs. “They don’t completely grasp why I still have to go for blood tests, why I can’t have ice cream with them, why I think the cancer might come back. We have moments of education and moments of just ignore. I think with my mom passing away in July 2014, that kind of resurrected what the reality could be.” At the same time, “Our kids’ school, Prairie Star Elementary, has been amazing. Those kids, those parents, and those teachers, are just above and beyond. The counselors, everyone, they were just so mindful.” And although her son had just started middle school, “I was meeting parents and kids at the run who had come out in the cold, that early, just to support us…it was incredible.” Melissa continues, “I grew up in a small town, and you know that people rally in a small town. But I was heartened to see that same sense of community in Leawood.”
Burns & McDonnell Presenting Sponsor of
The OVERRUN 2014
The run Melissa is referring to, the OVERRUN Ovarian Cancer 5K Run/Walk & 1 Mile Teal Trail Walk, put on by The OVERRUN Ovarian Cancer Foundation, began in November 2012 in an effort to raise money for ovarian cancer research. In it’s first two years, The OVERRUN Ovarian Cancer Foundation has donated $50,000 to much needed research at The University of Kansas Cancer Center. The OVERRUN is their primary fundraiser. Burns & McDonnell became a sponsor of the event in 2013, in support of Melissa, and Team Burns & McDonnell won the award for the most participants that year, with over 70 people running and walking on her behalf. The company is the presenting sponsor of The OVERRUN 2014.
When Melissa went back to work at Burns & McDonnell, after her first two rounds of chemotherapy, people initially questioned if she should be there, if it was too soon. Melissa explains, “I needed some normal. I needed people to treat me normal. And everyone was just so supportive and kind. I’m lucky to have my co-worker family.”
And finally, by her side throughout it all, has been her husband, Chris. “When I count all the blessings I’ve received from my friends, family, and co-workers, there’s still no way I could do this without Chris,” says Melissa. “He’s the one who helped me stand back up and keeps me up, both literally and figuratively. Reading mountains of medical information, coaching me along, and always just a constant source of love and encouragement – the support from him is limitless.”
We Believe in a Cure!
Please join us, Melissa, and the hundreds of women who share her story on November 2, 2014, in support of ovarian cancer research. We believe in a cure and hope you will join us in our fight against ovarian cancer!
The OVERRUN Ovarian Cancer
5K Run/Walk & 1 Mile Teal Trail Walk
November 2, 2014, 8:30 am
Blue Valley Recreation Complex
137th & Switzer, Overland Park, KS
Proceeds from the event benefit ovarian cancer research at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.
For more information or to register, please visit www.overrunovariancancer.com.
And, please, LIKE us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/OVERRUNOvarianCancer.