Melissa’s Living Legacy Foundation
Lauren Spiker’s daughter Melissa was a typical high school senior preparing for her prom and graduation, excited about attending university in the fall to study nursing, when she was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow cancer. In June 2000, after two courageous years, Melissa lost her battle with the disease. She was 19 years old. But before Melissa died she asked a promise of her mother. "If you have learned anything from me through all of this, do something with it to make a difference—to make things better."
Lauren kept her promise, establishing Melissa’s Living Legacy, a foundation dedicated to helping teens with cancer meet their life challenges in productive, creative and satisfying ways. In June 2002 the foundation implemented Teens Living with Cancer (www.teenslivingwithcancer.org), a Web site committed to "making things better" by providing online resources to support teens with cancer, their families and friends. The Teens Living with Cancer site, cosponsored by The Children’s Oncology Group, an international pediatric oncology research cooperative, is the most comprehensive and authoritative Web-based resource available for teens with cancer.
The Teens Living with Cancer Web site provides information about adolescent cancer and describes various treatments and their side effects in "teen-friendly" terms that are based on real-life experiences of teens with cancer. The site, averaging nearly 50,000 hits a week, offers information and advice that is medically sound and nonjudgmental, answering important questions that teens may be hesitant to ask their parents or medical team. Teens Living with Cancer is also an online community, offering a forum for teens struggling with the disease to share their experiences with others.
Additionally, Melissa’s Living Legacy Foundation offers innovative educational workshops and resources for health care professionals to help them develop more effective communication skills with their teen cancer patients. Their latest goal is the creation of adolescent oncology centers of excellence where teens can access age-appropriate programs and services.