Battling Leukemia: A Daughter’s Story

Life is filled with challenges we must face – some challenges are invigorating in their greater purpose. Still, others are heartbreaking. Melinda Meadows understands both.

As a daughter, Meadows is challenging an illness that has crippled her entire family. Her mother, Mary Diggs, is battling leukemia. As Meadows represents her hometown of Edmond as Mrs. Oklahoma in the upcoming America Pageant, she is doing everything possible to use the competition to raise awareness for cancer research.

“It wasn’t my intention to enter Mrs. Oklahoma at all,” says Meadows, who had initially set out to do volunteer work for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

But Meadows felt she was at the point she had to do something; she needed to act. Her mother had been fighting cancer for four years. “She has gone through every available treatment and nothing has worked,” said Meadows.

The struggle has been immense, not just for her mother, but for the whole family. “Every other week we have gone through test results and bone marrow biopsies. Our world has just revolved around the Leukemia and the result of that,” she says.

Meadows decidedly took a stand. “I felt like I couldn’t just sit around and watch it anymore.” Her plan to simply volunteer morphed into a greater undertaking to achieve awareness when Meadows met some of the inspiring women involved in previous pageants.

“I was trying to think of ways of putting the focus out there more,” she says. The last thing on her mind was a pageant. “I’m not your typical pageant person,” says Meadows, who will be 54 at the time of the pageant in January.

She felt empowered by previous pageant winners. “I thought, ‘you know what, I think I could do that. I think I could use my title to raise awareness,” she said proudly. “I feel like I am just a part of this wonderful group of strong women and they have helped me tremendously in this journey that I’m on.”

Among Meadows’ other greatest supporters is her devoted family, which has carried her through her mother’s diagnosis and treatment, as well as her quest to win Mrs. Oklahoma. “My family has been wonderful through all of this,” she says.

Her son, who owns Meadows Oil and Gas, has been her financial sponsor, with her daughter cheering her on and her husband acting as her pageant photographer. The preparation for a competition like this can be a huge undertaking. “Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, you need to be prepared,” she says.

Of course, she is motivated by the strength she sees in her mother. “She has been so courageous this whole time,” says Meadows. “She has been such an inspiration to me.”

It is clear that her pageant platform is where her heart lies. Cancer research is always on her mind. “I wake up every morning and think, ‘what if it’s today that they actually come out with something, because it could be,” she says, excited at the potential of research possibilities.

Beyond raising money, Meadows says, “The families, sometimes they need someone just to talk to. It has really touched my heart talking to the parents of the kids who are going through that. These kids are so brave. I know I’m struggling and it’s my mother – I can’t imagine if it were my child.”

Meadows has gained strength and resolve from her awareness efforts. It has helped her to face this challenge. “You have that helpless feeling when someone you love is going through cancer. You can’t help them; you don’t have the cure,” she says.

But she has learned, “There’s so many things that people can do. This has really helped me deal with it. It’s given me something else to actually have an action and feel like making a difference that way.”

Meadows’ next awareness event will be participating in the Light the Night Walk to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society held on October 10, 2010 with her team, The Walking Warriors. For more information on how to sign up, visit www.lightthenight.org/ntxok.

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