Melissa Wright Left A Legacy With An Impact
Melissa Wright and her brother Matt. Melissa fiercely protected her younger brothers, and loved her family more than anything.
No one lives the perfect life; nor can anyone go back in time to change things. But a powerful legacy can shine brightly, overshadowing our shortcomings, warming the hearts of those we’ve left behind and guiding others on a better path.
Melissa Wright left the world too young, at the age of 28, from Cervical Cancer. She would be the first to admit that she wished she had done things differently. However, her family and friends will forever carry her exuberant love in their hearts. And her mother and brothers will do everything possible to grant her wish to spread awareness of Cervical Cancer and the importance of education.
Her mother, Ginny Carr, said, “Melissa wanted everyone to know how important it is to have regular check-ups—not to put them off until something’s broke. She also wants young teens to understand how important it is to finish your education. She put off going to a doctor because in her minimum wage jobs, she never had health insurance to cover the cost.”
Melissa’s brothers, Matt and Carl, described Melissa as quite a character. Carl said, “She was full of life, had no restraints, and was a friend to everyone.” Matt added, “She was an inspiration to others and always gave great advice, although she wouldn’t follow a dime of it for herself.”
Her mother said, “My daughter was also very protective. Although a skinny little whip, she beat up any boy who messed with her brothers. She had great humor and loved to make people laugh, even when she wasn’t feeling well herself.”
Matt said, “Melissa didn’t live the perfect life. She never finished high school and had some rough years. Then suddenly she left home. She got up in the middle of the night and headed to Florida without telling anyone. We didn’t understand at the time, but later realized it was the best thing she’d ever done.”
Carl agreed, “She had to get away from everything and try something different. It helped her tremendously. She was doing so well and was the happiest she had been in years. She made new friends, found a new job, and was doing really great!”
But Melissa’s life was to take a tragic turn. Long-term symptoms finally drove her to the doctor’s for an exam, which revealed what turned out to be Cervical Cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, 12,360 new cases of invasive Cervical Cancer will be diagnosed in 2014, and about 4,020 women will die from Cervical Cancer this year. Once the most common cause of cancer death for women, the rate has declined by almost 70% with increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find Cervical Cancer early, in its most curable stage. (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer)
Melissa was absolutely determined to beat the cancer. She moved home and underwent treatments. She was declared ‘in remission’ and threw a huge celebration. Then, when health problems brought her back to the clinic for exams, it became clear the cancer had returned and spread.
Throughout the remainder of her journey, Melissa’s strong character prevailed. Carl remembered, “In the midst of her suffering, she always had a joke or a smile. The most important thing to her was her family.” Matt added, “She decided to throw a party one day, and 75 relatives gathered for the first time in 15 years. No one else could have gotten us all together.”
Finally, Melissa came to the decision, “I would rather live the rest of my life at home, enjoying my family and friends, than to be in and out of the ER and the hospital.”
Melissa’s immediate family and extended family lovingly took on the role of caregivers, but couldn’t do it alone. A call was made to Delaware Hospice, who came in to help manage symptoms and to support the caregivers.
Matt remembered, “We got discharge papers from Christiana Hospital, and the same day Delaware Hospice was in our house, putting the bed together, teaching us how to work the bed, clean up, administer medications…everything we needed to know to take care of her.”
“We needed this,” Matt said. “Her primary caregivers were the three of us and we never had medical training. I run an entertainment company; Carl runs a Church; and my Mom’s an accountant. What did we know about IV’s, lifting her out of bed, or changing linens? Plus, our emotions were in so many directions that we couldn’t think straight, let alone figure out what to do. When we called on Delaware Hospice, they honestly relieved that worry that we were clueless. They either taught us what we needed to do, or stepped in and did it for us.”
Carl agreed, “When things were overwhelming, we knew we were okay because we had Delaware Hospice. Sometimes we had to call in the middle of the night. I remember a nurse answered the phone at 3 a.m. one morning and came out through a snowstorm to our home in the middle of farm country. They were always there. Even after Melissa passed, a Delaware Hospice counselor came and sat with Mom and followed up afterwards. They made sure she was okay and gave her resources to help.”
Melissa’s mother said, “We simply could not have gotten through it without Delaware Hospice. They knew what we needed, even when we didn’t. It would have taken me hours to learn how to administer all the medications Melissa was on. They made it simple. When we needed help, their response time was awesome. But what really surprised me was how they monitored our entire family. I expected them just to be there for my daughter. But they would always ask if I was okay. Had I eaten? Did I take a shower? As a caregiver, you do forget about yourself. It was comforting to have someone concerned about our welfare. They had so much compassion.”
“Most important,” Ginny continued, “was that with Delaware Hospice’s care, we had more time to spend with Melissa. I was relieved of decisions. We were able to talk about things and to say our goodbyes.”
Carl said, “I was in the U.S. Virgin Islands doing missions when Melissa was in the midst of her first round of treatments. She sent me a message and said, ‘I want you to hold events to raise awareness about Cervical Cancer.’ ” One year after Melissa lost her battle; the family followed her wish and organized the first Cervical Cancer awareness event, “Mellie’s Legacy Banquet.”
Ginny said, “We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt where the benefit money should go. We chose Delaware Hospice in appreciation for what they did for Melissa and for us.”
Greeting guests at “Mellie’s Legacy Banquet”: Joyce Bensinger, Association Director of Development, Carl Wright, Ginny Carr, Matthew Wright, and John Ward, Chair of Delaware Hospice Development Committee.
Learn more about how Delaware Hospice can help you and your family cope with serious illness by calling 800-838-9800 or visiting www.delawarehospice.org