The very act of childbirth is a life changing experience. The glow of being a new parent is an emotion not soon forgotten. Now imagine that, shortly after feeling this glow, being given news that plunges you to the depths of despair. This is what happened to 1997 Brookfield High School graduate Melanie Tate-Saccaro.
At only the age of 32, and enjoying the feeling of being a first-time parent to her son Tate Alexander Saccaro, Melanie and her husband Mark (also a BHS Alum) were about to get some life-changing news.
“I hadn’t felt right during my pregnancy,” said Melanie. “I experienced symptoms of anemia, diarrhea and weight loss. As I prepared for return to work, a blood clot developed in my leg. This ultimately led me to the doctor, who diagnosed me with advanced colon cancer.”
The date was October 11, 2011, a date that was forever etched in the new mother’s mind. The word quickly spread to her family, friends, and classmates.
“The doctor, nearly in tears, expressed deep emotion as he laid out the facts for me,” said Melanie. “There was a large tumor in the low colon causing major blockage. There were tumors throughout my liver, my tumor ‘burden’ and counts were very high; this was a Stage Four disease...as bad as it gets.”
Melanie’s doctors told her that the liver tumors were inoperable. So instead of returning to work as an interior design project manager, Melanie began a fight for her very life.
“It’s certainly provided some perspective of what we consider truly important,” said Mark. “When something like cancer becomes part of your day-to-day reality, a lot of the trivialities that used to seem like such a big deal just fall by the wayside.”
After surgery to temporarily address the blockage, along with multiple blood transfusions and an IVC filter to prevent clots from reaching her lungs, she began treatment with one of the standard chemo protocols, Folfox, and then daily radiation to her colorectal tumor.
There were setbacks, of course. There were horrible chemo side effects, more blood clots and hospitalizations, struggles to stop her weight loss. As February approached, the planned time for her colon resection, her tumor count stopped dropping. Following surgery to remove the colon tumor she started a new regimen in hopes of holding the liver tumors at bay.
“While her recovery has been amazing to watch, it hasn’t surprised me,” said Mark. “After the initial shock of her diagnosis wore off, it was pretty clear to me that Melanie was the type of person that could, and would, overcome this disease. She’s proving me right every day.”