Faith. Hope. Life. Love.
Diagnosed at only 26 years old, as she was just starting her adult life, working, and living on her own, Melissa’s fate took a drastic turn. The impact of hearing “Stage IV lung cancer: Incurable” halted Melissa, paralyzing our usually vivacious, fun loving, laughing sister. We as a family decided never to hear prognosis information. We were going to fight this incurable disease as best we could, and we never wanted Melissa’s life marked off in terms of months or years. We lived scan to scan: Anyone affected by cancer knows exactly what we mean.
Over the years, Melissa changed. She maintained her fun seeking attitude, but began to gain perspective beyond her age. She lived by four words, which she tattooed on her wrist soon after her diagnosis: Fede, Speranza, Vita, and Amore, which are Italian for Faith, Hope, Life and Love.
Fede: Her faith never faltered. Melissa leaned on the Catholic Church, praying for a cure, loving God throughout her illness. She found peace at church. She carried bracelets depicting Saints and handed them out to friends, foes, or strangers who needed a little love in their lives. Melissa brought faith into our lives, making it not just a belief, but a reality.
Speranza: Part of never having prognosis information allowed Mel to constantly hope for a cure. We never, until her dying day, stopped hoping for a miracle. Melissa fought and fought, even having chemo administered while intubated at Yale, in hopes of fighting long enough for a cure to come her way. Melissa and her identical twin sister, Lindsay, traveled to Vienna and were the only twins in the world to try and use the other’s immune system to help fight cancer. She was strong, stronger than anyone, including herself, expected her to be.
Vita: Though Melissa’s life was cut short, she lived a more interesting and fulfilled life than people who have exceed her in number of years. Her zest for life is a gift to all of us: the only way we can possibly remember her is smiling, laughing, and having fun. She was contagiously funny, loved her friends and family, and wanted people around her all the time. If there wasn’t something fun to do, she threw a party. She created fun. She created memories.
Love: Melissa loved everyone, and wanted everyone to love each other. She was obsessed with making people feel good about themselves, always wanting to boost people up, or patch up someone’s quarrel. She wanted to be loved and to love. In some ways, cancer helped her achieve this: she became acutely focused on the importance of love once the gift of time evaporated.
After Melissa died, these four words remain; they are her simple message to us, reminding us how to live, how to heal, and how to maintain perspective. It is this outlook that drives The Melissa Marottoli Hogan Foundation to tirelessly seek out ways to cure lung cancer. Melissa would want the pain to stop with her, and we will do our best to help her achieve that goal.