What Leukemia Taught Me

///What Leukemia Taught Me

What Leukemia Taught Me

I’ve started this post and deleted it probably ten times now.  I’ve been stewing over the title for days because nothing seemed right.

I’m still not sure it’s right, but it is the best I can do today.

This weekend was a hard one.  Saturday was the visitation and “Celebration of Life” for my dear friend Melanie.  Sunday I traveled to Virginia for her burial and graveside service.  It’s still hard to comprehend that she is gone.

This weekend last year, we went to see Wicked in Greenville.  She was showing symptoms, but would not be diagnosed for a few more weeks.

Wicked Melanie Julie

Melanie bravely fought a rare and aggressive form of Leukemia since that moment last year.  She traveled across the state for treatment, took every powerful drug they gave her with a smile, and never stopped caring for others even her last days.

When anyone else would have completely crumbled, she faced her cancer with a spirit and determination that I’ve never seem before.

Even on the hard days, she never stopped inspiring her friends and family.

There is one word that stayed in my mind through the whole process: Strength

Melanie Isabella Chapel Hill

Melanie and I met shortly after I started dating my now husband seven years ago.  He was already very close friends with Melanie and her husband, Jason.

Her vibrant and infectious personality pulled me in and we were fast friends.  Melanie never met a stranger and once you were her friend, you had an ally for life.

summer09 026

I can’t keep track of all the day trips, movies, meals, lake outings…

summer09 040

… and holidays I shared with her since those early days.  I considered her family.  She even asked me to be the Godmother to her daughter, Isabella (The Hubs was already her Godfather.)

Isabella Melanie

Melanie was the life of the party and my world was better with her in it.


What Leukemia Taught Me

I had actually been saving this post title for when Melanie was finally in the clear with her Leukemia.  I wanted to write a post about how Leukemia taught me amazing things like how not to give up fighting.  I wanted this post to be about a victory.

I thought I was close to being able to write it because up until early January, Melanie was doing so much better.  I honestly believed she would beat the odds and survive.

Leukemia is brutal like that though.  It is an unrelenting, evil disease. It’s touched my life too many times.

I have been doing some reflecting this past week.  It’s crazy how big life moments leave you with nothing to do but think.

Even though Leukemia won in this case, I still learned so much from the way Melanie fought it.

Here are just a few things….

Do impossibly hard things with a smile.

When you have no other choice, just be brave.

Take it one day at a time.

Fight for a diagnosis and do your own medical research.

BUT! Be the nicest person in the hospital.

Fight hard for your family.

At the end of the day, a lot of stuff you worry about all the time, really doesn’t actually matter.

Surround yourself with friends.

Don’t miss a chance to tell someone you love them.

When the roller coaster takes off, ask for help.

You can’t do it alone.

Spending time together is the most important thing.

Sometimes you lose, but it doesn’t take away from how hard you fought.

Cancer can take a body, but it can’t take your love and memories.

I will miss Melanie so much.  In life, the outcome may not always be what you want or plan and sometimes it seems so unfair, but it is how you handle the process that really shows your true colors.  Melanie’s spirit shined bright even during the darkest days of her battle.  Her valiant example of strength, fight and faith will be one that stays with me forever.

Thanks so much for stopping by today.  Come back tomorrow for a few creative ways to turn your yogurt cup into a protein-packed dessert.

I’m linking up with Marvelous Monday and Thinking Out Loud Thursday.

Your turn!

Has anyone in your life ever shown amazing strength in hard times?

By | 2017-08-15T14:04:03-04:00 February 8th, 2016|Friends & Family, Fun|55 Comments


  1. Rosey Rebecca February 29, 2016 at 8:31 am - Reply

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Losing loved ones is never easy. You are brave and strong for writing this post and talking about all that you’ve learned throughout your experience. I wrote a similar post when my father passed away in 2011. It’s funny how grief can totally destroy you but make you so much stronger at the same time. Hugs.

    • JulieWunder March 5, 2016 at 8:41 am - Reply

      So true. These experiences are so hard, but make you stronger. I lost my Mom in 2012 too. 🙁

  2. Farrah February 15, 2016 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    I know this must have been incredibly difficult to write. I am so, so sorry for your loss, and am still keeping you and her family in my prayers. :[ Losing a dear friend is never easy, and the lessons you shared are all such valuable ones. <3

  3. Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes February 10, 2016 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Oh Julie, I am so so sorry to hear about this. There are no right words at a time like this, but it is clear she was a fighter. Just know that I am thinking of you and her family and her daughter! xoxox

  4. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets February 10, 2016 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Julie, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Hope you and your family are doing okay during this difficult time. She truly sounds like she was a strong and very special woman.

  5. Mandi Korn February 9, 2016 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    I love the list that you wrote of the things that Leukemia has taught you. I have been fortunate that I have not had to see someone fight for their life, or suffer, or have to go through rough times and be strong. However I have no family or real close friends, so in a sense you are the lucky one, to have been taught these things first hand, for you will see things differently then me, and will be stronger for it. Again I am sorry for your loss, but I love that you are taking positive inspiration from your pain and leading others in your path of wisdom.

    • JulieWunder February 10, 2016 at 6:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mandi. A similar thought was shared in the funeral, that we were all lucky to know Melanie, even if it is for a short time.
      Thanks for the support and lots of love, friend.

  6. Nicole @ Fitful Focus February 9, 2016 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Julie – I’m SO SO Sorry for your loss. Cancer is nothing but a bitch, but it seems like Melanie really handled it with determination and grace. I’m so glad that you have nothing but fond memories of her. Continuing to think of her and remember her will keep her alive in a different kind of way, and I hope you are able to share all those amazing memories with her husband and your god daughter. All my good thoughts and positive vibes are headed your way!

  7. Jess @hellotofit February 9, 2016 at 7:48 am - Reply

    Julie, I’m sad for you. I’m sure this was an incredibly hard post to write, and I can’t possibly know what you’re going through. Sending lots of hugs and thoughts your way.

  8. Myra Fox February 8, 2016 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    Oh Miss Julie, I am so sorry for your loss. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. Praying for peace and comfort through this difficult time.

  9. Andrea on Vacation February 8, 2016 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Hugs, thoughts, and love to you, your family, and her family.

  10. Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections February 8, 2016 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Julie, I’m so so sorry. I love your honesty though, that you wanted this to be about victory but even though it wasn’t chose to share anyway. I’m glad you shared your friend’s beautiful life with us. I am sorry she is not here any longer. Praying for you, friend.

  11. Blane Sherer February 8, 2016 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    I am certainly sorry for your loss. I’m know this was
    a tough weekend for you. I’m sure over time you
    will have the comfort of your memories of Melanie.

  12. Richard Hill February 8, 2016 at 6:59 pm - Reply


    Such a beautiful, moving, inspirirng post. My thoughts and prayerss go out to you, the Hubs, and her family. Thank you for sharing this most emotional and imspirational side of yourself.

    Rick Hill

  13. Dani @ Dani California Cooks February 8, 2016 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful post, and I am so sorry for your loss. The “you can’t do it alone” really stuck with me. I’ve thought about all the single, twenty-something friends I have who are living far away from family and what would happen if one of them got sick – I would hope they have good friends/coworkers to rely on

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      I thought about that when I was in that situation too. Friends are everything then! Thanks for the support.

  14. Runaway Bridal Planner February 8, 2016 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    This is a beautiful tribute to remember your friend!
    Leukemia is such a tough thing for anyone to go through, but sounds like your friend went through it with great friends and family by her side. Her lasting impressions and her amazing personality and life will stay with you all forever. Cherish those memories, and even though it’s hard!

  15. Mary Beth Jackson February 8, 2016 at 10:40 am - Reply

    What a beautiful dedication to a person who was such a sweet friend to you, I am so sorry for your loss. You would not want you to be sad but continue to remember all those fun times! XXOO

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      You are so right! She would be very upset seeing us all sad!

  16. kathyboggs February 8, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss Julie. Prayers are with you and Melanie’s family! God bless you all.

  17. [email protected] February 8, 2016 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Julie, this was a beautiful post and I think Melanie would have loved it! We never know who we really are until we face times of strife and struggle. The world is a better place for having Melanie in ut, even if it was too briefly.

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      That is what everyone said at the funeral. Such true words– thanks for your support.

  18. Emily February 8, 2016 at 9:57 am - Reply

    Wow, it’s amazing how the end of life really affects people, and it often shows me just how much faith they have in God’s promises of eternal life and their desire to want to do every last thing in faith and JOY, not taking any moment for granted. I want to be more like Melanie. Live every day like it’s my last, so I won’t have any regrets…

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Such true words. Times like this really bring this to life.

  19. Annmarie February 8, 2016 at 9:25 am - Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss, Julie. Thinking of you- losing a friend is never easy.

  20. [email protected] February 8, 2016 at 9:21 am - Reply

    So sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you and her family during this difficult time!

  21. Jaime February 8, 2016 at 8:47 am - Reply

    I hate cancer with a vengeance. Melanie sounds amazing and I’m sorry that her fight didn’t end the way we had all hoped and prayed. I got involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society years ago and learned so much about blood cancers, and I just hope that there’s really a cure in the not so distant future.

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Me too! It really seems like something we should be able to cure.

  22. Heather @Fit n Cookies February 8, 2016 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Oh Julie, I just wish I could give you a hug. She was a brave one, and I can’t believe she lost the battle. It’s so scary how cancer can show up and how fast it can take a turn. Definitely thinking of all of you guys through this next transition time. As much as you loved her, you know she loved you that much back. Love love love the lessons and wish you could have shared them with a victory, as well.

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much! I appreciate it beyond words.

  23. Tammy Tucker February 8, 2016 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Thank you for the post!
    When someone touches your life like that, you can only learn from them and everyone is better for it.
    The few things you learned and shared can be applied any type of problems in life.
    I plan to share this with my sister who is going through a rough time.
    Thank you for putting to words what I think.
    Look forward to your reads and shares each morning!

  24. Dan Steadman February 8, 2016 at 8:20 am - Reply

    wow…reminds me of my grandmother…she fought cancer twice…knew she would either be with her family or with Jesus and she was at piece with both…God knew it was her time…for grandmother and your friend

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      So true. Melanie had the same attitude… that God had a plan and she was just along for the ride.

  25. Julie what a beautiful way to remember your dear friend. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope the memories you have will help you all get through this. hugs xoxo

  26. Shelley Marcy February 8, 2016 at 7:44 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing the difficult as well as the simple parts of life. There is not a one of us who hasn’t lost someone they loved very much. So reading your post today allows us all to reflect on those loved ones. It also allows us to understand and have empathy for what you and Melanie’s family are feeling. Please know that those of us who pray to our Heavenly Father above are lifting all of you up for peace and comfort while you mourn this tremendous loss in your lives.

    • JulieWunder February 8, 2016 at 8:13 am - Reply

      Thank you so much. I struggle posting stuff like this, but I feel like sometimes it’s best to be honest and honor your feelings.

  27. Susie @ SuzLyfe February 8, 2016 at 7:34 am - Reply

    I can’t imagine how difficult this post was for you to write, Julie. I am so sorry for you, for her family, and for the world to have lost her.

  28. Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy February 8, 2016 at 6:18 am - Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like she was very much a fighter.

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