Melanie Wheeler is a typical 12-year-old. She loves school, her family and friends, playing sports and her dance classes at Eagle Dance Studio but with three tumors in her head and one in her spine, her life is anything but typical.
The upbeat, pretty teen had an unusual response when her doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus informed her that she has myxopapillary ependymomas, a type of cancer more common in adult males and very unusual in pre-teen girls.
“I told him that my motto is, ‘go big or go home,’ so of course the cancer I have is rare,” said Melanie last Thursday, not long after she got home from classes at Galion Middle School.
Melanie’s dad, Tom Wheeler, said that Melanie was diagnosed with the cancer after experiencing excruciating back pain in October.
“She came home from her dance class and said her back hurt. By the next day, she was throwing up and very sick so we took her to the ER. They sent her home with medicine and the illness part of it went away after a few days but the pain continued. We were going to take her back up to the ER but someone told us to take her to Children’s Hospital, so we did,” Tom said.
Tom said a tumor in his daughter’s back was removed shortly after her diagnosed.
“They said they had to remove that one right away or it could have effected her ability to walk,” Tom said.
Melanie’s mom, Marci, said that Melanie’s condition is being monitored closely by a team of doctors and neurologists at Children’s Hospital.
“We are growing her brain as much as possible before we have to radiate it. The cancer is a slow-growing one,” Marci said.
Melanie was recently chosen to be one of the honorary survivors at the 2016 Crawford County Relay for Life, which will be held on June 17 and 18 at Wynford High School.
“I am honored to have been chosen to tell my story and be a part of such a great event,” Melanie said.
As for the future, Melanie said she wants to do something different.
“I want to be a marine biologist or work at a zoo. There are just so many options,” said Melanie with a huge smile.