Hi. My name is Melanie. I currently live in Salt Lake City with my husband and our three children. Although I have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, people are continuously surprised of my optimism for life. For this reason, I have started this blog to inspire others to live life to the fullest as if they had Five Years To Live.
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Author Archives: Melanie
I started a nonprofit a few months ago and coerced a few people into being on my Board of Directors 😉. For some reason, they believed in me and wanted to help me share my passions. We met for months, figuring out how the heck to even start a nonprofit and planning our next steps. We were organizing basketball clinics for orphanages in Mexico. We secured a date for a golf tournament fundraiser at a private country club. (We were stoked about this because they only allow 8 per year and their board had to approve of us.) So it felt like we were accomplishing big things. The vision of the organization was coming together, and we were excitedly moving forward.
But one weekend with my good friend Lisa from www.handlettereddesign.com changed everything for me. I realized that this nonprofit, along with my chemo clothing company I was starting, were two endeavors too many for my life at the time.
I’ve always known that the most important things in my life are my family and my spirituality. But the execution of putting these two things FIRST has been a struggle for me in the past year. I’m addicted to being busy and tend to over-schedule my life. I seem to think that I can squeeze in SO many things everyday (which is why I’m usually late and always running around with no makeup and undone hair). I’ve just always liked being busy, and I have serious FOMO. But my friend Lisa helped me realize that the late nights of trying to run two companies simultaneously was not worth the depleted tank of energy leftover for my kids and husband. While I don’t judge other people who do this, it suddenly just didn’t feel right to me especially in my unique circumstance. I knew I needed to make major changes. But I was extremely frustrated knowing that I would have to walk away from these great ideas that I had spent so much time and energy developing. Lisa reminded me that, “just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean You need to do it.” BOOM. Wisdom. Those words hit me hard.
I don’t know how much time I have left on earth (well, who does?), but my diagnosis has helped me to be more keenly aware of how valuable time is. I want to focus my time more on family and simply sharing with others the perspective cancer has given me.
Although I let go of the nonprofit, it still continues. Some of the board members decided to take it over and move it in a slightly different direction. I told them I’d be glad to help, just in a very limited role. I was honored today to meet with this great group of women, as well as our attorney and other board member, Paul (not pictured, obvi). I’m so excited to see the good this organization will do for our community. Their first project is a free basketball clinic for kids ages 6-13 on August 3-4 at the Provo Rec Center. Their next project will be assembling chemo kits in October for cancer patients! Go to www.ServiceLife.org to check out the goodness!
The World Masters Games is a HUGE event. It brought in a projected 53 million dollars into the New Zealand economy. More than 28,000 athletes from over 100 countries participated. I was so impressed by how well it was organized especially for such an enormous undertaking. To promote the city of Auckland and the World Masters Games, the hired marketing company selected two athletes for a promotional video shoot. A woman from Australia and I were chosen, and we were gifted an activity of our choice. So, of course, I picked the scariest activity of all: Sky. Freaking. Diving. They were kind enough to pay for the skydiving for me and four of my teammates.
Let me remind you that I am deathly afraid of heights and also tight spaces. Skydiving is something I never wanted to do. But I was going to New Zealand for adventures and I knew my friends would make me do things that made me feel uncomfortable. And I wanted to embrace that and say yes to (almost) everything. So I didn’t sleep the night before due to my trepidation. We were all nervous about it but vowed to not speak of it until it was actually happening. Just thinking about it made us sick to our stomachs.
We took a ferry from our beach house on the north shore to downtown Auckland, where they picked us up to drive out to the skydiving location. As we rode up in the sky, all 17 of us straddling eachother in the tiny airplane, we started off nervously laughing and trying not to think about what was about to happen. But as we reached superior heights, the plane grew silent. We were jumping from 16,500 ft, the highest jump on the island. It would be 75 seconds of free fall and 5 minutes thereafter of parachuting. It was a LONG WAY DOWN.
I still can’t believe that I sat at the edge of the open door of an airplane. And then proceeded to jump out of it. It is so crazy to me. I can’t even wrap my mind around how insane that is. And I have no idea how to explain what it was like. It’s absolutely surreal. It felt unreal. We were dropping so fast that I had no control of my lips or anything really. My face looked smashed like I was being punched in a boxing match.
I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t freaked out the entire time. I tried to enjoy the beauty below. After all, there aren’t many other places to skydive that are more beautiful than New Zealand. But I was also trying to not throw up from all the spinning that we were doing.
When we landed on the ground, the videographer was right there waiting to get my reaction, but all I wanted to do is run to the bathroom to throw up. I was sick from the spinning but also from the huge adrenaline rush of what had just happened.
When we got back to Auckland, we wanted to tell everyone around us what we had just done. And we did. I was telling random strangers that we just went skydiving and that I had five years to live and that they needed to overcome their fears and live their dreams. Haha. It’s like a crazy high where you feel like you can do anything (or say anything).
After we settled down from the high of our experience, we were all suddenly sooooo exhausted. It was like a sugar crash times a thousand. It’s hard to explain the feelings of it all. But let’s just say that we went straight home for a 20 min power nap before our game that night, and we were grateful for an easy opponent.
I went skydiving because I knew it would be the scariest thing imaginable. I wanted to do it because I don’t want to miss out on exhilarating experiences just because I’m afraid. I don’t want my fear of heights and tight spaces (the tiny, crowded airplane) to limit my experiences here on earth. I want to not shrink from opportunity but to embrace it, arms as wide open as they’ll go. When all is said and done, I want to comfortably declare, “I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of not living.”
I discovered The Bucket List Family last year from a friend. This family travels the world full time, something that I’ve always wanted to do. (After all, I did study geography… because I knew I was going places, so I wanted to know where I was when I got there. -thanks MJ). Preston tried to fulfill my dreams of traveling the world by applying for the Air Force JAG program every year of law school until we realized that, for whatever reason, we just weren’t supposed to do it. (Cancer has now explained why). So now I watch The Bucket List Family adventures, and with envy, if I’m being honest. I keep trying to think of a way to do something similar to what they are doing, but I keep getting stuck on that silly obstacle called cancer and treatment and doctor appointments.
I often tell my friends about The Bucket List Family and also my dream of traveling the world. One of those friends decided to do something about it.
My friend, Jorja, is always thinking of ways to help me. Like that one time when we were at a BYU basketball game, but showed up too late to get the free shirt they handed out to the first few hundred fans. When we walked by the marketing staff at halftime, I asked if they had any left because I loved the design of the shirt. They told me no, so I walked away. Well, little did I know that Jorja overheard my conversation and waited till I left to speak with this same person. Jorja asked her, “Do you know who that is?” (Haha. I laughed when she later told me that. Because no one knows who I am. And who says that? 😂) Jorja was not taking no for an answer, and graciously demanded that they find a shirt for me, even if it meant that one of the staff members had to give up their shirt (which is exactly what happened). All I know is that Jorja was gone for a while and when she returned, she handed me the shirt that I had failed to get earlier. So that’s the kind of person Jorja is. You know, the good friend kind of person. In fact, she always says to me that she just wants to help make all my dreams come true. (Everyone needs a Jorja in their life).
I spoke to Jorja a few Mondays ago about this event that The Bucket List Family was doing the next day at BYU, but that I was unable to attend because tickets were sold out. So on Tuesday morning, she had the impression to reach out to them about me. Jorja is very obedient and didn’t hesitate on the prompting. Two people were prompted that day. Jorja, as well as Jessica Gee, the young mother and marketing guru of The Bucket List Family. Jessica had the opportunity to give away something to someone but didn’t know who. So she was prompted to pray about it. Jorja was prompted to take action on behalf of me (without my knowledge), so she emailed them about me coming to their event even though it was sold out. The two came together and were able to participate in a kind act.
Jorja texted me that morning that she had corresponded with Jessica and that she would allow me to attend the event without a ticket. I was shocked that Jessica responded to Jorja’s email and that she even gave Jorja her number so that I could meet up with them before the event.
So that night, my daughter, Alli, and I drove to BYU and met them briefly before the event. They were kind to take a few minutes to speak to me before the event started and I didn’t expect anything else as I sat and listened to Garrett tell his story of being an entrepreneur to the crowd.
At the end, they answered questions from the audience, which is when they announced that they had a surprise for a special guest named … Melanie Day!!! 😱😮😱 (If you click here and click on the link on the Instagram bio of The Bucket List Family and go to the 50 minute mark, you’ll see the video of how they announced their giveaway to me). They gifted our family a getaway to Sundance Resort. It took me a few minutes to get out of my seat because I was shocked. But when I got up there, she explained that she had been praying that morning about who to give this to and seconds later, she received the email from Jorja.
Moral of the story: If you have an impression to do something (as long as it doesn’t cause harm and isn’t evil), DO IT! Go with your first prompting. Don’t hesitate. Don’t doubt. Just go. Just do. You may just end up blessing some really cool person named Melanie Day 😉😘😜😘😉
Thank you Jorja and The Bucket List Family!
Don’t you hate it when you’re at a sporting event and there’s this one person who keeps standing up in front of you and you want to yell, “SIT DOWN!”?
Well, a couple weeks ago, that person was ME!
I was sitting four rows up from the floor during the BYU women’s basketball game. It was a big game. We had an alumni luncheon before the game. It was senior night, meaning it was the last time the seniors would be playing on their home floor in the Marriott Center. The opponent was Gonzaga, the perennial conference champions who stood in first place.
As we walked from the practice facility, where the luncheon was, through the tunnel and onto the floor, I could feel the excitement from the larger-than-normal crowd. I got the chills as I watched the lights drop. They announced the starting lineups, and played highlights on the jumbotron. The crowd was buzzing. The tone was set for a big game.
We made our way to our seats, and we watched a back and forth game. These women displayed their best efforts. For the four seniors, it would be one of their last games as a college athlete.
BYU dug themselves a hole and were down by about 10 points at the start of the 4th quarter. If they were going to win, it was going to take a huge effort to change the momentum of the game.
I started to think about my experience at the North Carolina at Duke mens basketball game weeks ago, where we literally did not sit down the entire game. Because NO ONE did. It was a collective effort by the fans to show their team they cared enough to sacrifice their comfortable (or not so comfortable) seat and to instead stand to cheer on their team. It was never a question of whether we were going to stand up or not. It was part of the game. And it made it that much more enjoyable.
There I was at this BYU women’s basketball game remembering how fun it was to stand and show support at that game in North Carolina. And so I thought, yeah, that’s what I need to do.
As BYU chipped away at the lead on offense, I stood to cheer them on, hoping that my efforts would in turn help them. I hoped that it would help motivate them to try a little harder. To not feel as tired. To be able to dig deeper and ignore the pain of exhaustion. I wanted to stand and cheer so that I could help take away confidence from the Gonzaga team and give it to my BYU team.
As a fan, you’re not in control of much. You aren’t playing, so you can’t make plays to help win the game. You aren’t a coach so you can’t make decisions that affect the outcome. So really, being a fan is the worst. All you can do is watch. But you can also cheer and stand and yell and give it your all that way.
So I decided that’s what I’d do. Now, don’t get me wrong. I‘m usually a quiet, observant fan just enjoying the game I love. I’ve mostly thought those crazy fans who yell just need to calm down and that there is no way I’d ever be associated with THOSE people.
But I do remember back in high school being so invested at the boys basketball games. I remember yelling so loud at the games and wanting them to win so badly. And feeling like, if I just cheered loud enough and was present enough in the game, that by my efforts, the guys would win the game.
So I stood instead of sat at the BYU game. And yelled. And clapped. And gave it my all.
But apparently the kid behind me didn’t like it. “Can you sit down?” he asked.
“No,” I bluntly replied. “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to stand to cheer on my team.” (He was obviously a Gonzaga fan). The look on his face was that of unbelief and shock. I guess he couldn’t believe that I would say no, and that I would say it so nonchalantly.
As the momentum shifted to BYU, I remained standing, hoping others would join me. (They didn’t btw. LOL. I’m the only moron).
In fact, at one point, after BYU made a big shot, I saw the BYU coaches motioning to the crowd to stand up, so I did the same. Hey, I was here to support them. So if they ask me to do something, I’ll do it! I turned around to the crowd and waved my arms up and down to get them to stand up. I then realized there was a number of Gonzaga fans behind me, and no one was standing up. (oh well, I tried).
It was then that I realized that I was in the middle of a potential “moment,” if you will. I suddenly thought of Tony Robbins. (I love me some Tony). I thought of his story of when he made his family all stand up on their chairs at a restaurant and shout their server’s name to demonstrate how pleased they were for his service. His kids were reluctant to do it (because duh, that’s super awkward). But it turned out to be an incredible story and a memory that they will always share. Long story short, the server was given a raise, Tony Robbins’ daughter ends up working there and eventually marries that server! All because Tony seized an opportunity to do something special, or awkward, however you want to look at it.
So in that moment, I thought, what if I, a 39-year-old mom of three kids, got in front of the stands and ran back and forth to get everyone to stand up in the crowd?! What if I did that? I wanted to do it. I felt like if I did it, it would help the team win the game. And if I did it, it would be something that we talked about for a long time! My kids would say, “Remember that time when mom ran in front of the crowd to get them to cheer,” and the ending of the story would be, “And BYU won the game because the crowd got so loud that the players had courage and confidence as they fed off their energy!” (haha) I could create that story for my kids to tell about their mom. People would laugh at the ridiculousness of it. But it would be a fun memory to have. If I did nothing, there would be no memory. No story told.
Think about it. Think about the stories you have. Most of them stem from something unusual or awkward that happened. It wouldn’t be a story if you went to a basketball game and just sat there and watched. It would only be a story if you created something out of the ordinary.
As I mulled over this thought of running across the court and the implications of it, I also thought of the potential embarrassment. So I didn’t do it.
Maybe I missed an opportunity. Maybe it wouldn’t have amounted to much of anything. But I bet it could’ve been a story that we told for a long time and that we could at least laugh about later. And that’s what it’s all about, right?! My mom always tells us that life is all about having stories to tell.
After my failed attempt to get the crowd up and out of their seats, I never sat down until I knew BYU would win and they no longer needed my efforts. And I had so much fun at the game. Because I stood and was completely engaged in every play, and tried my best to encourage the players, it was that much more fun for me.
When the kid asked me to sit down, I asked him to stand up. Even though we were cheering for different teams, I wanted him to stand up to enjoy the game more. When he asked me a second time to sit down, I told him, “No. I am trying to support my team.” His response: “Why don’t you support us by sitting down?” I laughed and said, “I’m not here to support you, buddy. Why don’t you stand up? It’s more fun that way.” I did actually feel bad that I was blocking his view. And tried to apologize during a timeout that I was sorry but that I’m just trying to have fun and trying to support my team. I asked him to join me, but he just stared back at me in disgust. Haha. Sorry buddy. Maybe next time, you’ll have a better experience if you stand up.
Just stand up, people. Life is more fun that way.
If you’ve wondered who the short, blonde is in all my pictures from my recent trip to North Carolina, well, here she is. In her own words, Jamie Oenning Friesen writes about our weeklong basketball fantasy:
“In our family we joke that when we first remember meeting Mel she was standing at the front door to our house, just standing there on the porch, too shy to ring the doorbell or knock. In reality, my first memory of Melanie is (of course) a basketball game. She was an incoming freshman to our high school and had joined our team for our summer league. Maybe (maybe?) she had been at practice…I don’t remember. What I do remember is her on the court, flashing to the high post and getting the ball as I cut backdoor to the basket, mindlessly running the play like we were supposed to. The next thing I knew, the ball was in my hands as she had somehow threaded the pass through like 3 defenders and found me open under the basket. I was so surprised I missed the layup (the first of my career. LOLZ), but remember thinking “how did she make that pass? Who is that freshman?” That is truly my first memory of Melanie.
Our relationship evolved over the years from teammates (twice: high school AND college) to a-friend-who-is-really-my-sister. We have always seem to have some pretty crazy things happen to us and always have fun no matter what we are doing. We know each other so well and laugh so much that hanging with Mel is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Except when she tells me that my fingernails look like a homeless person. You’d think having cancer would make her nicer, right?
Basketball has been a central theme of our friendship from that summer of 1992 so it was only fitting that we got to spend the most incredible week in North Carolina living out some of our basketball nerd dreams. While it may seem like we spent the week just taking selfies melfies with tons of famous basketball people, we did much more than that ok? We got to take a peek behind the curtain of two of our most respected programs and meet some pretty amazing people. Are we now best friends with Coach K? Pretty much. Do we both now have Eric Montross’ personal cell phone number in our phones? Yep. Are we vacationing with Coach Williams and his family this summer? Probably.
If you have ever tried to plan a trip/outing/event with Melanie, you know there will be 30 changes to the itinerary, an over-stuffed schedule and her forgetting her wallet 50% of the time. Needless to say, getting to NC was complicated and stressful, but we managed to get to go earlier than expected to get to see the UNC and Notre Dame men’s basketball game (in Charlotte due to a broken water main in Chapel Hill.) We had planned to be there very early but managed to slide into our seats just before tip-off (see above note about traveling with Melanie). BUT during that delay we met some super nice and amazingly well-dressed UNC fans, Mel got interviewed and we chatted with Laura Montross who might be the nicest person in the world. She knew of Mel’s story and hooked us up with her husband, UNC and NBA star Eric, who wanted to show us UNC’s facilities during the week. We mulled over this offer for all of a nanosecond before saying “SURE!”
I literally had this SI cover on my wall when I was in high school. I know most teen girls have DIFFERENT things on their walls, but I think we should celebrate our differences. And who knew 16 years later when I met his wife in line at a basketball game I could tell her “I know who your husband is! He was on my wall as a teenager!” Which isn’t awkward or weird.
We were then able to enjoy a really good game between the Irish and the Heels (the Heels won) and got to take a super awkward Melfie with Irish star Steve Vasturius and chat with his parents which was really cool.
This is our friend Steve. He plays for Notre Dame.
On Monday Mel did more interviews and got a dinner-time phone call (NBD) from Coach K, who invited her to practice the next day. Yawn, whatever.
On Tuesday, guess what Mel did? Hey, you’re right another interview, before going to Durham for, yep, another interview. I was integrally involved in all these media appearances, holding her stuff for her and getting her water and sorting through bags of skittles as she only likes to eat the green ones. #diva. We passed out donuts to the Cameron Krazies who had been camping out for weeks for the game and got to meet a ton of super nice students. And then it was time to head inside to watch practice. Now, as we went inside we probably looked like two calm, cool, level-headed middle aged ladies. But inside, we. were. dying. We were both legitimately nervous. Like, couldn’t talk to each other, heart pounding, dry mouth nervous. In retrospect it makes no sense why we nervous (it’s not like we had to actually practice: although, truth be told, I was ready to run some 3 man weave) but at the time we were both freaking out.
Here’s us on the floor at Cameron. I have a personal goal of always posting pics of Mel where she looks confused or weird. Mission accomplished.
I can’t even say watching Duke practice was a dream come true because I don’t think either of us had even considered dreaming about it. We got a practice plan, got a tour of their facilities, watched practice, met the entire team, chatted with the coaching staff and had a good convo with Coach K. We asked him bball-specific questions (like one our most long-standing bball queries: does he teach an inside pivot foot or let the player use their strong foot. SEE WE ARE NERDS!!!), recruiting questions, talked about his family and the rise of the program. He is a down-to-earth guy who was really gracious and kind. And tall!
See, he’s tall!
Us with coach Jon Scheyer, who is just the sweetest, nicest guy (and lead guard on the Duke 2010 National Championship Team). He’s engaged ladies. He’s taller than I expected. Everyone within the program was super friendly. Duke basketball is just first-class.
Afterwards, we sat in the car in silence…like “what just happened? Was that real life?” Such a cool experience for us.
Mel making buckets in Cameron. JUST LIKE COLLEGE yo!
On Wednesday we traded Duke blue for Tarheel blue as we headed over to Chapel Hill to see the basketball museum (really, really cool!) and then met up with Mr. Eric Montross who walked us through the entire Carolina basketball facility. It is ridiculous. Like Eric kept saying “life is good as a UNC basketball player.” True dat.
We then headed into the Dean Dome to WATCH UNC practice! I know what you are thinking, “did you guys feel bad at all about watching the pregame practice of two rival schools in the days leading up to the biggest game of the year?” Turns out, we did not feel bad. In the stands of the Dean Dome, we also got a practice plan, sat by the ESPN crew doing pregame work for the broadcast and then, oh, by the way, got to go down and meet Coach Roy Williams.
Two days, two hall of fame coaches. That’s how we do it. He was extremely humble, kind, funny and his southern accent is quite charming. After practice we got to meet more Tar Heel staff and players who are all the most welcoming, nice and family-oriented group you can imagine. From their manager to their head coach…we felt like a part of the Tar Heel family. And then Mel beat UNC point guard Joel Berry at PIG and ruined his confidence for the rest of the season and most likely the duration of his NBA career. Thanks a lot Mel.
Is anyone still reading this? Game day at Duke was crazy-town, or should I say Krazie-town…the Krazies were in full force, the campus was jumping and it was just excitement everywhere for what is, annually, one of the biggest games of the year. Melanie had 3,450 more interviews to do before the Head Line guys (they are the students that manage the camping/tenting process in K-ville. It is very complicated. We must have asked about the rules 15 times and still didn’t get it) had gotten us VIP passes to enter Cameron 2 hours early. As we walked into Cameron, the classic Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing” was playing which is crazy as that was one of our warm up songs in high school the season we were undefeated up until the State Final game. We were on the floor pretty much up until tip off. At one point we thought we might actually get to play in the game. Mel was fresh off her PIG victory so it wasn’t that unreasonable of an ask.
We got pics with the Krazies, pics of the teams warming up, we were on background footage of Game Day, Mel got a pic on the Game Day set, we took Melfies with anyone we could…it was awesome. The game itself was amazing…loud, intense, back and forth…everything you could want in a big rivalry game. Mel and Preston had awesome seats right behind coach K, I used the VIP pass to go anywhere I wanted and ended up standing on the baseline with some Duke fanatics. You can see us in certain angles of the ESPN broadcast, and I’m easy to spot as I’m the only moron wearing a red shirt at a game between two schools who wear blue.
At halftime we got a melifie with JJ Redick. I think some other stuff happened then as well but who cares because #J.J.
After the game (a Duke win BTW) we chatted with all of our new best friends, took more photos, Mel did yet another interview and we basked in the awesomeness that just transpired. I will say that after watching the practices leading up to the game, being on the court for warmups and standing court-side for the game, I am RUINED for attending any other sporting event ever.
The reality of the week so far eclipsed any expectation that it is actually quite surreal. The thing that (like always) made it so special is the quality of the people we met and the lengths everyone went to make the experience so amazing. And I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. One of the reporters asked me what it’s like to watch Mel go through this journey and I was honestly able to say that it has been inspirational watching her live out what she is saying. She is trying to make each moment count and fill her hours and days with meaning. That’s not always possible in the midst of laundry and boring stupid things like that but she definitely isn’t hesitant about jumping in or hanging back from meeting people, trying new things and putting herself out there. It’s fun to witness that. After all, this was the girl we nicknamed “Kramer” in high school. So to see her committed to living a full, rich life and actually making the small choices to do that is really cool and rubs off on those of us around her. So cancer sucks but cancer is what is forcing us to make time to have adventures like these so in a way, thanks cancer for reprioritizing life and opening the door to adventures and memories like these. We are now Duke and UNC fans for life!
And again, thanks to Mel’s brother and sister in law for housing us and the amazing people at Duke and UNC who went above and beyond. You will always have fans out west! And Coach Williams, just text us about the plans for the vacay this summer. Can’t wait.”
As I stood in the lobby of the attorney’s office today waiting to drop off my nonprofit application, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sudden snowstorm outside. To make small talk, the receptionist asked, “So are you one of those people that likes the snow?” My initial thought was, “HECK to the NAH! I’m from Southern California! I like shorts and flip flops all year round. And when I say flip flops, I mean Rainbow, not Teva.”
But I didn’t say those things. Instead, I said, “No, the only time I like the snow is when I’m sledding or skiing.” Then I started to really notice the thickness of each snowflake. It was like confetti falling from the sky. I couldn’t keep my eyes off this miracle of ice crystal collision. I suddenly felt so lucky to be witnessing something so beautiful. It was as if God gifted me that moment to say, “What’s up, Melanie. I made this. And I can make anything beautiful. And that’s wassup.” (Because that’s how God talks to me.)
Just moments earlier I was thinking how much I hated the snow, and then suddenly my perspective changed.
I thought of the movie, Life is Beautiful, and how the main character, Guido, created joy amidst a terrifying experience. Guido, an Italian Jew, and his son, Giosue, were taken from their home and sent to a concentration camp. When Giosue asked where they were going, his dad pretended that he planned an elaborate trip for Giosue’s birthday. Guido convinced his young son that everything was a fun game, in order to protect him from the horrors of their reality.
Ever since I saw this movie back in 1997, I’ve been fascinated with this character, Guido. How was he able to keep his spirits up while he was beaten and starved and put through the worst circumstances imaginable? How did he spend so much energy to continuously create this game for his son? It was amazing that he was so persistent in convincing his son. How did he not give up? His bravery to protect his son makes me want to cry all over this keyboard.
Over the years, I’ve thought about this movie and its significance in my life. I’ve wondered if I were in such a horrifying circumstance, how would I handle it? Would I have hope and how would I retain that hope?
I’ve wondered why Guido turned it all into a game, instead of being honest with his son. Maybe Giosue would have given up if it weren’t for his father’s fabrications.
Eventually, Guido was killed by a German soldier. But his son and wife lived. After the Nazis left, the American soldiers showed up in a tank (which is what Guido told his son would be the prize for the winner of the game). The movie ends with Giosue embracing his mother and announcing that he won the game. And then these words scroll across the screen, spoken by an obviously older Giosue, “This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me.”
No matter our circumstances. No matter our lot in life. No matter the trials we face. We have a choice. We can choose to be a victim of circumstance. Or we can choose to see our circumstances differently.
It doesn’t feel fair that I’m a victim of cancer. But it has taught me to perceive life differently.
Life is like snow, if you will. It can be cold and miserable (which, duh, it is), and you can spend all winter wishing you were in Hawaii. Or it can be beautiful and captivating, and you can make a game out of it by catching the most snowflakes in your mouth in the middle of the Kohl’s parking lot.
Caught you! I AIN’T NOBODY’S FOOL! Don’t cheat. Read THE ARTICLE and then continue reading here.
Okay, now you’re ready.
The same sportswriter, Jeff Call, who wrote that article also covered my team when I played basketball at BYU in 2002.
After my senior season, he wanted to write about how I turned down a chance to play in the WNBA because of my decision to keep the Sabbath day holy and not play on Sundays. However, the story was never printed. I wanted to remain out of the spotlight, so I declined to have the article written. I regret that decision. I thought I was being selfless by not seeking attention through the publication of my story. Today, however, I consider this decision to be selfish because I missed the opportunity to help others. Even though I was heartbroken to give up my dream of playing professionally, I was passionate about keeping the promise I made to no longer play sports on Sundays. In hindsight, this could’ve been an influential message to younger athletes who were trying to navigate both their athletic careers and spirituality. I didn’t realize it then, but it was a missed opportunity to share a message. I don’t want that to happen again.
When I was surprised by BYU over a month ago with the news of my dreams coming true, I knew I wanted to share my message this time around.
I have appreciated the writers and reporters who have shared my story. I am now asking you, my friends and family, to (more…)
It has taken me a long time, but I’ve finally realized that my concept of money has been backwards my whole life.
When I was a kid, I had a legit fear of being homeless. So I saved. And saved. And saved. I had my own banking system: three envelopes separating my spending, savings, and tithing. But I never actually spent the spending. It just kept growing.
While at UCLA playing basketball, I got a monthly stipend for housing and food. I spent as little as possible of that money and saved the rest. When my teammates dined at Cheesecake Factory (which was often), I stayed at home and ate cereal. I saved out of fear.
When I went on my LDS mission, after 3 years of monthly stipends at UCLA, I had a few thousand dollars saved up that I put into an account.
So I had all this money saved up, but for what? (more…)
I had a conversation recently with someone who had a heart attack five years ago. Stan Pool is the eternal optimist, making it a point to always be positive and happy, and to create that same feeling for others around him. He is always laughing and trying to make you laugh. After his heart failed him, he decided to be even more keenly aware of just how precious life is and how wonderful it is to be alive. He said that now he considers every day a “BONUS DAY.” He told me about playing racquetball with his wife and son earlier that day and how fun and wonderful it was. He paused, and with tears in his eyes, he told me, “that was a bonus day.” Seeing him emotional made me cry, of course. I love Stan. And I thought of how cancer, like his heart attack, has changed my perspective on life. I explained to him that I felt the same way. Every day is a bonus day. It’s one more chance to spend with our loved ones. One more chance to grow and learn. One more chance to start all over again and try to be better. One more chance to enjoy other people and bring light into their lives.
During our Christmas vacation in Midway, we spent an afternoon at the swimming pool with our friends, the Roberts. Fletcher was done swimming, so I held and snuggled him in a chair on the side. (That in itself was a bonus for me because he usually doesn’t sit still long enough to let me snuggle him.) As we watched from the sideline, I noticed that everyone was laughing and having a great time together. In that moment, my emotions got the best of me. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of it being a bonus day, just like Stan explained to me days earlier. I felt truly lucky to be alive and to witness that moment with my family and friends.
Since this conversation with Stan, I have tried to make it a point to remember that each new day is a bonus. I want to be more like Stan. I want to laugh more and create joy for others, just like Stan does. I want to appreciate my time with my husband and kids more. I want to consider my time with them as a gift. Every night when I go to sleep, I want to look back on the day and confidently declare, “today was a bonus day.”
On the day of my mastectomy, my mom and I arrived at the hospital at 7am at the University of Washington hospital, and I wasn’t taken back for surgery until probably after noon. Let me just say that the anxiety was building all morning. To keep me calm, my mom gave me a box given to her from her friends which included handwritten notes from women at my parents’ church back home. Some of these women I know, and some I don’t. But I really appreciated that my mom’s friends, who I consider to be my friends as well, would do such a kind thing for me. This helped pass the time and I felt so blessed that so many people took the time to write notes to me. One note in particular stood out, quoting Friedrich Nietzsche, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Cancer has changed HOW I live my life, but my WHY will always be love. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for (more…)