Welcome to Light The Night Box Walk Fairbanks's Fundraising Page

Welcome to Light The Night Box Walk Fairbanks's Fundraising Page
Jun 18, 2018

Welcome to Our Light The Night Walk IN FAIRBANKS!










In the loving memory of my Mom, Melissa Schnell; A woman described best as driven, adventurous and caring. My Mom was the type of person who made sure that others around her were well taken care of and happy. She never gave up fighting for her life and would always say she will WIN, but she also knew what her outcome would eventually be.  Accepting her illness is what gave her peace and freedom. Melissa was loved by countless people and she was able to see that in her last moments. From coworkers to family and friends, many would drive 3+ hours to see her and simply visit for the day. The hospital staff was speechless witnessing the amount of long distance visits from loved ones.  Friendly hellos and loving cards gave her such comfort during her last moments as she finally rested. 


My mom, Melissa, was first diagnosed in the fall of 2004 with Acute Myeloid Leukemia also known as AML. It was a very fast process for her.  While her doctors were suspicious of a potential cancer diagnosis they were still waiting for the test results to confirm. Meanwhile, she went into the ER thinking she was having one of her bad allergy moments. Instead, she received the news that she had AML and chemo was started right away.  She was in remission for just less than a year when the AML came back. With no bone marrow blood match available, our family organized multiple bone marrow blood testing events with hope that we would find a match for my Mom. But alas, no match was found. My Mom was becoming so extremely ill that it started to feel that there was very little hope. Another round of chemo and full body radiation was completed. Then, a new research study had come out: an umbilical cord stem cell transplant.  My Mom was qualified for the experimental treatment. Only two states were able to complete this type of treatment. My Mom had decided to complete the umbilical cord stem cell treatment at Seattle hospital. She was the second person to have it done there, and 5th total in America.  We just all hoped for the best. Her double umbilical cord transplant was donated from an Australian baby and completed October 9th 2006. After a few months the doctors felt she was able to go home. Unfortunately the night prior to her discharge back home she fainted and ended up in a coma. It was discovered that one of her medications she was taking caused brain swelling.  It made her blind, weak and altered her memory.  After another month she was finally able to go home.  Over the next ten years from her treatment she also had to get both hips replaced and continue to work on her strength.  She had to give up some of her favorite activities such as soccer and horseback riding. Some of the activities she continue to do were taking her dog on walks, taking her grandbaby to the park and the zoo with her nieces. She was able to go out with her friends and family and watch  her Oregon Duck football games and Sunday Nascar.   


After ten years the AML returned more aggressive than it had the last two times. This time a solid mass of AML hid behind her kidney.  My Mom was admitted February 2017 to receive the strongest chemo with hope that it would slow or stop the growth of the AML and that it would go away in her blood. Just a week prior to her chemo treatment she declined and became so sick that she did not eat. She became so weak she could not even stand without being weak at the knees. The chemo was completed, but she was still constantly sick and not able to keep anything down. It was discovered that she was developing ulcers in her stomach.   She ended up in ICU and was in a coma barely breathing on her own. The doctors felt her prognosis was very poor.  Once again my Mom proved them wrong and woke up from her coma a week later.  It was still a long road ahead of her.  She couldn't move, swallow, her skin was raw, and they also discovered a mass growing in her breast and in her nasal area. 
Once my mom found out the treatment did not work, it left her with so much pain.  With grandbaby number four on the way, her love of life, Daughters, Son, dog, and all her friends and family- she was heartbroken.  After taking a few days to process that the treatment did not work and there was nothing more that could be done, she just wanted to be home. They transferred her to a hospital closer to home in Portland, which ended up only being a few weeks before they decided to send her home for her last days.  Her kidneys failed and she required dialysis, becoming weaker and more ill with each passing day.  She got to see all her loved ones right before it was her time.  
My Mom, Melissa Schnell passed away May 13th 2017 just after 10pm in her bed. She was finally in peace and no longer in pain.  She is missed by all every day. My Mom always made you smile filling a room with warmth and comfort.  If it was not for the research we would of not gotten 10 extra years with my mom. Melissa Schnell will always hold a special place in our hearts.  We will always love her. 


Unfortunately that is not the only person I love who has been impacted by cancer. 
I would like to share a little about Dawn-Marie. From the time I was a baby until my Mom was diagnosed with AML, Dawn-Marie was my daycare provider.  I spent every day of the week at her house and felt safe and happy there.  She is still someone I speak with almost every day by phone or text.  
Dawn-Marie was diagnosed with Small Lymphocytic Leukemia (SLL) in 2011. Her treatments have included chemo infusions that were not successful, Ibrutinib, and now Venetoclax.  This last medication is working but her body has difficulty tolerating due to neutropenia.  It effectively kills the lymphoma but it also kills her neutrophils putting her at risk for infection. Currently the doctors are adjusting the dose of medication to strike the balance to keep the lymphoma numbers low, but also keep the neutrophils adequate to fight off infection.   

Dawn-Marie is a very energetic, compassionate, outgoing person.  She is the type of person who will welcome and compliment people regardless of knowing them or not. She always shares positive things with those around her. Because of her caring and loving nature, it can be hard at times for her to sit back and let others take care of her.   Dawn-Marie has a full life caring for all those around her including her day care children, taking her daughter to softball games, supporting her son’s band, and loving her husband.  Due to my own life transitions I had to relocate with my husband and daughter to another country for a while. Simply knowing all those around Dawn-Marie, especially her husband, son, and daughter would make sure that she was taken care of was comforting to me.  Her friends continue to help her get to her appointments when she needs the help. It helps me feel comfortable seeing how loved and cared for she is.  Despite her cancer diagnosis and treatments, Dawn-Marie was with me many times to visit my Mom when she was dying from AML.  
To date, no treatment is available to cure her cancer.  We count our blessings that she is in the hands of a great doctor and healthcare team. Dawn-Marie is such an inspiration that she motivates others to keep doing what they love even if it means a ton of rest breaks in between, as well as finding new things to love and look forward to. 


These two women mean so much to me. And I have been so blessed with the amount of time I’ve had with both.  They are an inspiration and a motivation to do all I can on my part to spread awareness to help others in need and help raise funds for new research.  With more research, maybe we can find a cure for Dawn-Marie.  For my Mom, ten years is a long time to have remission. On the other hand, treatment has not advanced very far.  


We never know what the next day brings us and a lot of times it hits us when we least expect it, like it did for me with my Mom. My motto is, you never know what one is going through or has been through. We all have a story to share.  Start off with a simple hello. You never know where it could lead.  I hope by assisting with Light the Night and organizing fundraisers I can help to stop cancer, and find a cure.  My hope is that no one else experiences what my loved ones have, and I want to make a difference by bringing awareness and raising funds to support research.


Thank you for reading my story. Please share if you would like to. 
Let’s bring light to the darkness of cancer!


Thank you for bringing us all closer to living in a world without blood cancers!


Team Name Subteam Walk Site Date Team Captain City/State  
Light The Night Box Walk Fairbanks   Seattle Center 10/27/18 Meghan Heesacker Seattle, WA  

Team Fundraising Total

Goal: $11,000.00
0 %
Donations: $50.00

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