and it still seems like yesterday.
This has been a very difficult year. I am really struggling right now. I miss Melissa more every day.
Eight years ago this month she was in the hospital...pretty sure this weekend was the weekend she went to Hospice (for ten days). Those days are so vivid - from the day she went into the hospital, to the day they moved her to ICU (for 3 days), then to Hospice (ten days), home for Christmas (10 days) then back to Hospice for 5 days.
So many positive things have happened in the last 8 years....Melissa's Scholarship fund has helped multiple students at Fairmont - $1000 scholarships have gone to 10+ students (3 going to students who participated in the Fort 5K) and now Lacy (the head girls basketball coach at Fairmont) has taken over the FORT 5K, all the proceeds go to the girls basketball program. Melissa would love that. The girls basketball program gives an award in Melissa's honor - The Melissa Fortener McLaughlin B POSITIVE Spirit award. Cassie Sant was the first recipient - she went on to play for University of Dayton, then semi-pro in Europe. She is now an assistant coach at Fairmont. Cassie was a junior at Fairmont when Melissa played - she got to see Cassie play her sophomore year - she saw the potential in Cassie...I remember her talking about it. She never got to see her play her junior year. By the time the Firebirds season started that year, Melissa was in the hospital. When she was getting ready to come home from Hospice, she told me she wanted to go to the Fairmont girls game the next day (she came home on a Friday). She had a visitor that morning and slept the rest of the day...we never made it to that game. After Melissa passed away, probably a week later, we went to the Fairmont game at Miamisburg. It was the only thing I could do...go to basketball games. Nothing else mattered. It was the last thing SHE wanted to do. So we still go.
The Cincinnati Kelts continue their annual Breast Cancer Fundraiser - half the money goes to Breast Cancer Research, half goes to Melissa's Scholarship Fund. We are so grateful for that.
One of her cousins (Sean Cramer) holds an annual sand volleyball tournament and donates the money for breast cancer research in Melissa's name.
So many positive things...and I am struggling. Our lives have changed so much. We have a lot of new friends through Compassionate Friends. Re-connected with one of Donny's college football teammates (his daughter died of ovarian cancer two years after Melissa) and have become good friends with another couple who lost their son in 2007. He was killed in Baghdad.
We have the boys as often as we can, but they are growing up and their lives are getting busier and busier.
Taking care of my dad long distance. I wish he would agree to come back to Dayton. His family would love to have him back here. All of us.
Helping my friend Ruth's husband Bruce whenever he calls - we stop to visit him a couple of days a week. He's 93, a WWII vet who has an amazing memory. We love hearing his stories. (Ruth was like a second mom to me. She died of breast cancer in 2011.)
Keep in touch with my good friend Jackie's daughter, Elizabeth. She's come to visit a couple of times (and stayed with us! I love that!) Jackie died a month before Ruth - uterine cancer.)
And trying to keep my sister Sue's son Matthew close. He calls me Pam-mom. (my sister Sue died on Melissa's birthday in 2013.)
I am tired. I am angry. I am sad.
I want my daughter back.
And I am so thankful when friends check in. I'm not always good at reaching out, but I'm pretty good about returning calls. And meeting with one or two friends for coffee. Still not comfortable with big groups.
Unless I'm talking about Melissa.
Which brings me to the reason I am posting today.
At the Fairmont/Wayne game last night, there was a girl sitting across the aisle from us that looked familiar. Donny recognized her right away - Andrea Hoover. She played for UD a couple of years ago. Donny thought she was sitting with the new coach for UD Women's team.
After the game, we were getting ready to leave, and the coach's little boy was in the aisle...a good way to strike up a conversation. I asked her if that was indeed Andrea Hoover, she said "yes".
Then I asked her if she was the new coach at UD. She was.
I started telling her that a few years ago, I came to UD to talk to the women's team about my daughter Melissa...her eye's grew wide and she said "I was THERE! I was an assistant coach then! I remember you!"
Then she said "I would love for you to come and talk to the team again this year before our Pink Game in February."
I sat there and told her Melissa's story again, and she listened. Again. I am so thankful when I have a captive audience to tell Melissa's story. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year. If I can encourage ONE person to be proactive and get to the doctor early if they find themselves in Melissa's situation, if I can keep one mother from losing her daughter (or son) by being proactive...
I sometimes wonder why I am still here. What is my purpose?
It's twofold...to keep Melissa's story alive and to help other parents who will walk this path.
Two things that help me heal.
B POSITIVE... I'm trying Melissa.
I love you and miss you EVERY single day.