A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Mother, daughter fight cancer battles together

Smiling mother and daughter in walkway

Melissa Shatley didn’t spend much time thinking about her diagnosis when she learned she had cervical cancer on Dec. 26.

She had something else on her mind.

Her 14-year-old daughter, Brooke, was having severe abdominal pain. Melissa suspected the cause was something more serious than the ovarian cyst with which Brooke had been diagnosed, so she brought her daughter to Dr. Anthony Evans, her own gynecologic oncologist at Marshfield Clinic, for a second opinion.

“I had to fix her first,” said Melissa, of Prairie Farm, near Barron.

Brooke was diagnosed with ovarian cancer  — a type of gynecologic cancer — and had a football-sized tumor removed less than two weeks later. Meanwhile, Melissa began her own radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Building a family bond

As mother and daughter both underwent treatments for their gynecologic cancers, they say their bond grew stronger.

“To have her there with me to know what I was going through helped a lot,” Brooke said.

Caring for and worrying about her daughter took Melissa’s mind off her own treatments, but she also found comfort in knowing she wasn’t alone in her cancer battle.

“Not that you want to share the experience of cancer, but if you have to, it helps to know someone else is going through the same thing,” Melissa said.

Brooke also grew closer to her father, Jason, as a result of her experience.

She missed more than three months of school while undergoing chemotherapy, and Melissa often stayed overnight at the Hope Lodge in Marshfield during her own treatments. Jason stayed by his daughter’s side during that time.

“We had more one-on-one time,” Brooke said. “We watched TV and talked about hunting.”

She said her family always will be close, but part of her wants to forget the cancer ever happened.

Community support

The Shatleys didn’t only have each other as Melissa and Brooke fought cancer.

They received an outpouring of community support in the form of meals delivered by local fire departments, 4-H clubs and friends; a benefit set up by friends and family; and T-shirt fundraisers organized by Melissa’s brother-in law, Jesse Hamble and Brooke’s classmates at Barron High School.

A website was developed to tell Melissa and Brooke’s story and to share information about events in support of the family.

“Staying in contact with my friends was a big thing,” Brooke said. “Technology helped us stay in touch. We used Snapchat and FaceTime.”

Others reached out to the Shatleys the old-fashioned way – sending flowers and cards, and dropping in for a visit.

“Some of my biggest supporters were my friends,” Brooke said.

Moving on

Both done with cancer treatments, Melissa and Brooke are happy to return to their normal routines.

For Melissa, that’s her job as a nurse, making dinner for her family and camping.

Brooke, now in remission, has returned to Barron High School and is eager to start playing volleyball and softball, hunting and working on 4-H projects.

“Cancer was just three months out of my life. That’s really nothing,” she said.

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