Staring Death in the Face
Every person eventually faces death, but 39 year old Melanie Day (BS ’03) has a more intimate and immediate view of death. In her words, “I’m staring death in the face.”
A former BYU Women’s Basketball player, Melanie and her husband, Preston, moved to Colorado for Preston’s law school externship in the summer of 2013. Melanie was pregnant with their third child, and nursing their second daughter when she first noticed something amiss. When Day’s pain landed her in the emergency room a week later, the doctors told her they needed to rule out cancer. But Day already knew her diagnosis.
“When I knew that cancer was a possibility, I just knew I had it . . . when I got the official diagnosis [in June], it was obviously very devastating and very hard to talk about…for me to actually say, ‘I have cancer’, was remarkably hard . . . seriously one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is just to tell people that I love that I have cancer.”
Because Day was pregnant at the time of her diagnosis, the doctors couldn’t determine exactly how advanced the cancer was, but they began intensive chemotherapy immediately. When Day realized that she needed chemotherapy, she was devastated thinking the doctors would have to abort her baby. To her surprise, the doctors informed her that her baby would be protected from the chemotherapy. True to the doctors’ prediction, Day says, “[My baby] was completely protected . . . That was a miracle. In fact, his middle name is Milagre, which is ‘miracle’ in Portuguese . . . because my husband and I both served missions in Portugal.”
By 2014 Day had another miracle: a clear scan. Cancer-free, she joined her husband in a small northern Nevada town where he had found work. Their family quickly bonded with their new neighbors and began to resume life as a normal family. In the fall of 2015, however, the cancer returned and metastasized to Day’s bones. Day explains, “When [the cancer] leaves its original site, it’s called metastatic breast cancer. It’s stage 4, which means they can treat it, but they can’t cure it. Eventually it is going to kill me.” Statistically, Day had two to five years left to live.
With her new diagnosis, Day’s world turned upside down, again. The family sadly left their beloved Nevada home to live closer to family in Utah. More significant than the physical move, however, was how Day’s whole perspective shifted, as she describes, “It’s kind of like my world shrunk, and there were only a few things that mattered to me at that point: my husband and my kids. And that’s it. . . . I’ve had to take a really good look at what I’m doing with my life, and what are the most important things. . . . Just suddenly, everything became measurable to me. How many more times am I going to hold my husband’s hand? How many more times am I going to do all these things with my kids?”
As she considered her short amount of time left to live, Day began to reevaluate her life. She and her husband decided to spend their time and money on making memories together. Day also compiled a bucket list of twenty things she would like to do. “I used to always say, ‘Someday. . . someday I want to do that,’ but I’m tired of saying no, and thinking of all the excuses of why I can’t do [something]. I’m trying to fulfill my dreams.” So she is doing things such as: floating down the Provo River, attending the Lisbon Portugal temple open house, witnessing a flash mob, and attending a UNC vs. Duke men’s basketball game. Day is working her way through her list (she has already seen a flash mob and attended the UNC vs. Duke game), but her real goals reach far beyond a bucket list.
“I want to teach my children…to treat ALL people equally and fairly…I want my kids to be good…to be valuable members of their future communities . . . to be honest and sincere.” Day also wants to spread a message of hope to those outside her family. When Day isn’t busy adventuring with her family, she updates her blog and shares her experiences with others. Most of all she spreads her message: “I want other people to live like they, too, have five years to live.”
--Madeline Buhman ('18)