|Chris and Melanie Bannister|
It starts out pretty normal like anyone else living in anywhere, USA. Growing up, getting married and having children. But it goes horribly array in so many ways neither she, nor anyone else could have predicted.
I learned of Melanie Bannister from my cousin Connie Brown. Melanie is my cousin’s daughter-in-law’s best friend. She has been in the fight of her life, for the second time. She has been trying to put out fires now for years, her kids, her husband’s and now one out of control waging against her body. Her loving husband is beside himself wanting her to enjoy a quality of life and yet understanding her need to always choose life, one more day, always wanting that extra moment with her children and her husband and her loved ones and friends.
Those around her say that she has maintained strength through the adversity and a positive spirit through the storms. Yes, you could say she inspires. But you could also say she suffers as her treatments make her quite sick. Her story is the reality of breast cancer gone badly, when it comes back with a vengeance and permeates other areas of your body. Metastatic cancer is a harrowing experience and no one deserves this journey, not Melanie, not her husband nor these four children. She is a soldier and for that, she deserves a few moments of our time to hear her story straight from her lips:
My name is Melanie Bannister. I would love for our story to be shared. I am wife to Chris Bannister for 17 years and a mother of 4 children. 7 years ago this October I was diagnosed with Stage2/3 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. I went through aggressive chemo and radiation, as well as a double mastectomy. I was regular about going to every checkup appointment. I had a total of 6 PET scans after and I was all clear of the nasty breast cancer. We thought that would be the last I would ever hear of it for me.
Almost 6 years later to the day I was diagnosed with Stage IV Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. I was told the cancer has metastasized to my liver, lungs, uterus, ovaries and bones. This was one year ago. The first step was supposed to be putting my body into menopause and then starting a targeted chemo pill that is specifically for my type of cancer.
Unfortunately, my body did not respond well to going into menopause and the insurance would not cover the pill unless it did. With the cancer multiplying fast in my liver and bones, my oncologist decided on IV Chemotherapy Ixempra. Due to the neuropathy of side effect of this treatment, we discontinued it in July 2017 and have moved on to Gemzar. For the rest of my life I will be on some form of Chemo to keep me alive. Although the side effects are bad, if this is what I have to do to keep me here for my family it's better than the alternative.
Due to everything involving our family, my husband Chris has had to take unpaid leave to help care for our children as this process at times has made me very sick and weak.
Chris also had to go on short term disability due to having a fracture in his neck fusing 2 vertebrae together and be off work for 6 weeks July of 2017.
My children are so important to me and there are challenges with them also. Our oldest daughter Alexis is 22 years old and was born with Cytomegalovirus. She, in turn, has Cerebral Palsy and is severely multiply impaired. Alexis requires full time care 100% of the time. Her conditions have led to many hospitalizations and surgeries over the years. When she was only 7 years old, she was left in a coma for a full month and again 2 years ago. At that time, the doctors were not sure if she would pull through it or not. By God’s grace, she did! Alexis cannot eat by mouth but we will take that because she is here with us.
Our daughter Kyleigh is 17 and was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, Acute Intermittent Porphyria when she was only 7 years old. My husband Chris also has this rare blood disorder. Stress is a huge trigger for this disorder and can have either of them down for days at a time requiring hospitalization at times T
Our son Noah was born with Ocular Albinism, a rare genetic disorder of the eyes and is legally blind.
Our youngest is Caleb, 9 years old, healthy but way too young to understand or remember what mommy went through before or perhaps to grasp all of this in our family. This is very new for him this time around. Caleb still has his good and bad days of worrying about me.
This will be a long uphill climb for our beautiful family. But, we can do this together because I know God has our best intentions at hand. This is our normal. God has blessed us because He knows we are strong and together we can get through anything.
We are truly blessed. Yes there are times where I ask why? Why me? Why us? What did we do wrong? But I know that it's nothing we did wrong. It's because we are blessed and we are strong!!!
There is much to be learned from this young woman's story. Could you endure this kind of hardship and be strong in spirit, love and faith? With all this adversity, she still stands as a beacon of hope for all those around her as she fights for every single day she can be alive, just for one more moment to spend with her husband and children. This woman and this family has many many needs. I pray more people hear her story and decide to help. If you are touched by Melanie, please share her story. Her GoFundMe page is for a family that can use the support and is worthy of all of our contributions. Bless all of you for reading this and most of all, Melanie and her wonderful family! Click here to show your support for this brave woman!