*Note: A few weeks after this story was published, Melissa finished chemotherapy only to be hit with another devastating blow. Their home was destroyed by the Ohio tornados. They’re now living in a hotel and their cars were totaled. If you’d like to help the Ely family you can donate here.
I imagine what it must have felt like that day when 26 year old Melissa Ely was brave enough to ask for help. Her hand grazing her bald head with the sound of her sleeping baby nearby. Cartoons blaring from the living room as she typed her story into the tiny box.
It’s a place Cocktails & Chemo created to help families with young children pay for childcare and extra help while a loved one is in treatments or hospital stays.
For Melissa, #OurTribe has become so much more.
On December 31, the young mother had a hysterectomy after an ovarian cyst ruptured. Doctors took her uterus, cervix, left ovary and appendix. As they were tearing apart her organs, they also found cancer- a mass on her ovary. With a new baby and a 4-year old at home, Melissa headed into chemotherapy. She’s hoping she’ll be done by her golden birthday on May 27.
Melissa is a stay at home mom, which means she’s coming home from chemotherapy to recover and fight through the side effects while also entertaining the energy of her little boys. She’s both patient and caregiver.
“They’re a handful but have made this dark and rough part of my life so much better,” she said. “They think it’s so weird that mommy doesn’t have hair anymore but I’m glad they are too young to understand what’s going on. I hope someday they look back and I’ve taught them strength and courage.”
Melissa is what strength looks like and was the recipient of our #OurTribe grant. It can’t begin to undo the pain her family has dealt with but we hope the gift of $1,500 will ease some of the worry. We hope it takes the pressure off of her care partner and husband who is working full-time.
We’ve loved getting to know Melissa and when I asked if we could share her family’s story and a photo she simply replied, “Well, of course but we’ve never had family photos taken. Everything has been happening so fast we don’t even have one with the baby all together.”
So, our team got to work. A message on Instagram helped us find photographer Echo by Design in Dayton, Ohio. Echo said she didn’t even have to think about it.
“My mom has battled cancer twice in the last two years. I have often told people you don’t understand the road until you walk it yourself. Till a loved one has to fight for their life through chemo, radiation, surgeries and endless emotional and physical pain. To watch them suffer when there is absolutely nothing you can do it about it,” Echo wrote on her Instagram, “It was an absolute honor to bless the Ely family with these portraits. Melissa is doing well, her family is her rock and I was so blessed to partner with this amazing foundation.”
Here are the beautiful images of Melissa and her beautiful family, plus some breathtaking photos with her mom.
This is what a TRIBE looks like- this is what #OurTribe is all about.