Fight to Live
Photo Credit: National Academy Recording Arts & Sciences
Then suddenly at age 43, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Melissa says her journey brought her closer to hell than she's ever been. But Melissa proved she is a survivor: Just weeks after undergoing grueling chemotherapy, she emerged truly triumphant. Bald and beautiful, Melissa returned to the spotlight and performed at the 2005 Grammy Awards ceremony.
For Melissa, it was a defining moment not only in her career. "It was big for me but in a very personal way," says Melissa. "I wasn't thinking about the world. I was thinking about how I wanted to get back and do what I do." Despite being weakened by the cancer treatment, Melissa rocked the stage that evening. "It was important for me to get back up, get up on the horse and ride," she says.
Melissa had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy. She says undergoing chemo was the most painful part of her treatment: "It is like nothing you've ever imagined before. It is taking you as close to death [as you can get], because…it kills every dividing cell in your body." After treatment, Melissa says, "My eyes would start glassing over. You go away. You go to this place inside where everything—your whole body—is in pain."
Melissa shared what her time spent in recovery revealed to her. "It was perspective. It was—this is my body and this is my mind, and my mind is still going. My spirit is going. I have love. I have feelings. I have thoughts. I have a whole world going on. But my body is not available to me now. And so I…I now no longer fear death because I know that, yeah, this body goes away…it will terminate. But, that which is inside me goes on and on no matter what. And it really raised me up to that. That energy."
While acknowledging the seriousness of cancer, Melissa says it's important for all those affected by the disease to have an attitude of hope. "Cancer holds a lot of power," she says. "There are so many advances nowadays. Breast cancer especially. Yes, you can die from it. Absolutely. But that's not the only end to it. There are millions of cancer survivors."