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Melody Whitaker Hall has been surviving breast cancer for six years. She is a native of Clinton and is the youngest child of two born to William Whitaker, retired Clinton educator, and the late Elmer Whitaker.
Hall was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Then, in December 2011, she received the terrifying news that her cancer had returned, and this time it was a more aggressive form.
The Clinton native received her bachelors of Arts and Science degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in broadcast news from Bennett College in 1994 and earned a Masters of Science degree from N.C. A&T State University in Human Resources Counseling, Business and Industry. She is currently the Human Resources Ccorporate representative of N.C., S.C. and Va. in America’s No. 1 independent furniture company, Rooms To Go in Charlotte.
First diagnosed in 2008 with Stage 2 breast cancer, Hall began six months of chemotherapy, had a radical mastectomy, surgery and radiation.
Then, almost two years in remission, she was diagnosed again in December 2011 with Stage 3C/Stage 4 estrogen positive breast cancer on the same side as before. Her fight this time brings even greater challenges, she said, with an even more aggressive form of weekly chemotherapy as she battles the disease for a second time. D
uring her downtime, she said she enjoys traveling and spreading her important message to all women that having a mammogram and conducting self exams is life-saving.
She currently lives in Gastonia with her Clemson University football standout husband, Howard, and their 3-year-old daughter Lauren Grey, and step-daughter, Alexis, a sophomore at Winston-Salem State University.
This is Melody’s story.
“During the month of October 2006, at the age of 34 years old, I noticed in the shower, that my left breast had changed in color. As I began to examine my breast, I felt a very hard mass underneath my skin that I had never observed before. Luckily for me, I pay very close attention to my body and and changes I may seem to notice. After sharing what I had observed with a close friend at work, she recommended that I schedule an examination with the Presbyterian Hospital Breast Health Center in Charlotte,” shared Hall.
When Melody returned back to the doctor for the results with her parents, she explained that the breast health navigator explained to her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I tried to act as if I did not initially hear her, yet the words “breast cancer” kept ringing in my ears. I was devastated, and in one week, my life would be forever changed. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Shortly thereafter, I began an aggressive form of chemotherapy for the next six months, experienced complete hair loss, a radical mastectomy of my left breast, 22 swollen lymph nodes removed and daily visits of radiation to save my life,” she added.
Fortunately for this young woman, she has always had incredible coping skills and a positive attitude.
“I wasn’t going to let the scariest time of my life get me down,” she attested. “Until I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I never knew I could withstand aches and being in pain every day. During the summer of 2007, my life seemed to take some since of normalcy again after all I had endured,” remarked Hall.
With the loss of her mother in March 2008, Melody could not pretend to be able to overcome such bad news.
Then came good news.
“I never imagined that somehow through all the grief and pain I had been through, I would ever have an opportunity to bear a child, but God’s plan was much bigger than mine. Lauren Gray was born to my husband, Howard, and I on May 29, 2009.
After dealing with the shock of her initial diagnosis in 2006, and almost five years in remission from completed treatment, Hall felt that her life was finally back on track. She was eating right, watching her weight and getting plenty of exercise.
Then she found herself facing a breast cancer diagnosis all over again.
“During December of 2011, I began to notice a swollen nodule on the left side of my neck. As the weeks rolled by, the nodule increased in size tremendously. Because of my recent history, I was scared and nervous to again contact my doctors in order for them to biopsy the left side of my neck. As I was driving home one night before the 2012 New Year, I received the call that completely devastated me. My surgeon informed me over the phone that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer again on the same side as before, but what I did not realize was the fact that it was extremely more aggressive than the first time. I was Stage 3C/Stage 4 Estrogen Positive and I had congestive heart failure, because the cancer had spread beyond my chest cavity,” stressed Hall.
The cancer found a resting place around her heart and lungs. Hall then began weekly chemotherapy immediately, because she realized this battle would go beyond the medicine, the hair loss, aches and pains, and constant fatigue.
“I now fight each day to survive for my daughter. I want Lauren to know each day I push myself because of my will to live to see her thrive and develop into a beautiful young lady. I am so blessed and thankful to have the support system I have in my life. My father, Mr. William H. Whitaker, who is a retired educator here in Clinton, draws strength in knowing each day that I am progressing forward in my treatment and my daily regiment. From my immediate family, in-laws, Clinton High School classmates, Bennett College and North Carolina A&T State University college friends, sorority sisters, co-workers, church family, and a unbelievable host of friends from all over the country, my support is beyond being measured,” cited Melody.
On Saturday, Oct. 6, 43 friends from all over the country convened in Charlotte to participate in supporting her team, “Melody’s Diva’s,” to walk in her honor for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
“Through my testimony of resilience, I serve as a mentor and educator to others who may be going through the initial diagnosis phase in their life. I am called upon and I initiate speaking with newly diagnosed cancer patients to encourage and uplift their spirits and let them know that they are not alone during this unknown fight of their life” expressed Hall.
Melody states that although there were certainly times when the world felt sideways and blurry, cancer taught her a different form of acceptance and gratitude.
“Remaining balanced in the face of adversity was its own reward—its own opportunity. This is a lesson that has truly freed me. My entire journey and experience with cancer transformed my vision of the world and my place in it. I realized I am not alone, I am truly loved,” asserted Hall.