*UPDATED* On July 19th, 2019, my mom, Yolanda (Lana) Melendez passed away after tough battle with pancreatic cancer. Since she survived her sickness long after the doctors told her she wouldn't make it, I believe she beat the cancer. My mom and I were able to spend nearly everyday together during this past year and I'm so grateful for the time we had. It's because of all of your donations, we were able to live comfortably and treat her disease as best we could, thank you so much to those who shared and donated.
In lieu of flowers, she requested that you please continue to donate to this memorial fund. These donations will be used to help financially support me with daily life, medical care, and housing.
Please keep sharing and donate if you can. Thank you so much for everyone's support during this time.
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On August 9th, 2018, after a 5 month battle with intensifying pain, Lana Melendez, my mother decided to push against the medical advice she was given by multiple people and seek help for the excruciating pain in her abdomen. After multiple scans and a biopsy taken from her pancreas, it was found she has inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma; a cancer with one of the highest mortality rates. We received the devastating diagnosis that she has an aggressive, locally advanced tumor involving large blood vessels. Now, she is fighting for her life against Stage III pancreatic cancer and she needs help.
My Mom’s Story
Her entire life my mother has been involved in protecting America and its citizens. And for as long as I can remember, my mother’s always been a fighter. She graduated from the New York Military Academy, and soon after joined the U.S. Army. After her 9 years in service in 5 operations, she continued to fight for her country as a U.S. Immigration Officer. Then she was teaching Arabic and working for the Navy Postgraduate School. My mom has done more in her life than most can imagine. Not only did she fight for her country, she fought for her family at home. She raised my sister and I, alone for the most part. When we were in HS, my mom became a foster parent to take in our friends with family struggles; six HS girls stayed with us, all at different times. Besides the normal challenges faced by single mothers, she is also my sole caregiver and helps me daily with my permanent disabilities from a bout with meningitis when I was 14.
These days she still continues to inspire by teaching K-3 and special needs children at a K-12 school in rural Nevada. And for 3 months every summer, a rugged family who knows her as Claymore comes to build Burning Man. And she becomes the oil in this professional machine as a Black Rock Ranger, and makes herself available to anyone who needs her. My mom also runs a project for combat veteran art therapy called Camp Hellnback.
My mother has had a long history of stomach problems, so it didn't seem to out of the ordinary when in March 2018, she was beginning to have some unfamiliar pains in her stomach and back. After trying to deal with this pain on her own, it was getting to be unbearable. In May, she went to see her Primary Care Provider at the VA, who offered a Gastroenterology consult two months later, but no pain relief. After more weeks of enduring the pain, plus having additional symptoms; she went to the ER at the VA. There they found a mass in her pancreas in a CT. She saw the GI doctor the next day who ordered an endoscopic ultrasound which the local VA doesn't do. After weeks of waiting for her civilian appointment, again, she wound up in the ER; this time at Renown Medical Center in Reno, NV.
A new CT at Renown reported "fat-stranding adjacent to the pancreas," not a mass. After being told that they didn't have any more tests to give her, the admitting doctor offered her to stay and get morphine. My mom asked to be discharged to get back to work, with whatever pain medicine they wanted to give her and she quickly became labeled a drug seeker. Aside from never having any addiction problems or history with opiates, she has never had issues with any drug or alcohol, she never even smoked. And again, she was left without pain relief.
By mid July, she still had not received an appointment with a civilian GI doctor, and she pushed to be sent 6 hours away across state lines, to the VA in Palo Alto. After multiple days of scans, blood tests, pokes and prods; we had the diagnosis of inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The doctors described the tumor as "locally-advanced," it has grown in and around her pancreas and has wrapped itself around her largest artery and vein which controls the blood supply to everything below the solar plexus.
The Road Ahead *UPDATED 5/3/19*
My mom has always been independent and strong, constantly taking care of others while sometimes neglecting herself. Though my mom is resilient, strong, and positive in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, she has decided to withhold treatment for her cancer and focus on pain management and palliative care.
We had hoped for the best side effects from the therapies she was willing to undergo, but each treatment was making her more sick and all of her options would make her sick or keep her in pain. This also is the best option for her because unlike some other cancers, there is nothing to cure; why go through painful therapies for something you can't even fix? Transitioning from a lifestyle of being the caregiver to one where she may need assistance with simple tasks like using the rest room and brushing her teeth is difficult for anybody, but especially her and our family. Because of her choice to withhold treatment, this process most likely will come sooner than later. In addition to eating a special diet and using palliative care services, she also wishes to partake in holistic therapies, which are not covered by her insurance.
Our need for financial support has changed since this decision has been made, here are our goals of care to make my mom as comfortable as possible before she leaves:
We are looking to raise money purchase a comfortable trailer and move back into Reno, for easy access to healthcare and other services, to raise money for a disability-friendly transport van and to raise money for the necessities required to care for my mom and our family.
We have been very fortunate to live in a place like Gerlach for the time we have, however we live nearly 2 hours drive away from where she can receive any treatment. And we found out that the V.A. doesn't provide in-home hospice to people living a certain number of miles outside of Reno. We also have noticed the amount of sickness and medical problems for a town as small as Gerlach, is far too high to be normal; and living in a toxic place with cancer can only make it worse. This is why our next step is moving into an apartment in Reno to be closer to treatment. Aside from this move, we still have everyday finances to worry about (her holistic medical care, rent, heat, my medical care, etc.) which continues to add up. Due to a paperwork technicality, my mom doesn't qualify to receive donated leave, so she will be on Leave Without Pay for the entire time of treatment. Besides trying to cover daily living and care costs, we want to use every tool in the box with her symptoms, like natural therapies and eating healthy unprocessed meals. We will need to replace the funds used to care for me and add the cost to assist my mom at different stages, like needing a delivered meal plan. These amount to significant out-of-pocket costs that we can't cover.
Because of our current family situation, I am the only family member available to care for my mom besides my sixty-nine-year-old grandmother. In that sense, I'm lucky to be able to spend all my time caring for her. I’ll be my mother’s primary caregiver in the months, and hopefully years to come. We will need lots of assistive help and support, but I have been found too disabled to work. And because I'm dealing with a daily symptom of nausea and vomiting, I can't drive and I often can't cook or brush my own hair and teeth. Just like for her, it will be the most difficult challenge I have ever faced, but one that I also consider an honor: being able to take care of the person who has protected and nurtured everyone around her through some of life’s roughest trials. My mom and I are the only family that live with each other, but without help from others, there is no way we could stay afloat. Though it's only been a few days since we learned this diagnosis, it's hard to see how we will go on. But we will.
This is why we need this blessing and our prayers to be answered. Any and all support is a gift and we will be grateful for everything positive that comes our way. If you can share this gofundme to friends, groups, celebrities that would help this campaign off, that is a gift that could keep giving.
Thank you for helping me give my mom and our family a fighting chance.
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