Melissa and Joe's Story: We Can Never Give Up

Melissa and Joe's Story: We Can Never Give Up

January 2014 started off as an exciting time for the Martelli family. Towards the end of that month, Melissa and Joe welcomed a new addition to their growing family – a little sister for their young son. It was just three short weeks after the happy arrival of their daughter that the Martellis faced another challenge: Joe was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

“There were no headaches or seizures,” recalls Melissa, “but looking back there was a bit of slurred speech. We just chalked it up to the stress of a newborn, new home and the recent holidays.” But when Joe began to lose mobility in his right hand, a trip to the family doctor was in order. With no conclusive findings or recommendations from their doctor, the Martellis decided to visit a private MRI clinic to delve deeper into the health challenges Joe was experiencing. The scan revealed the mass causing Joe’s increasing lack of mobility and speech, and the couple soon found themselves at St. Micheal’s hospital in Toronto for a second MRI. A biopsy of the tumour identified its type, an anaplastic astrocytoma, but due to its location in Joe’s brain, removal of the mass was impossible. “The doctors said they were going to give Joe everything they had to beat this,” adds Melissa.

For the next six weeks, Joe faced daily chemotherapy and radiation.  

Thirty rounds of treatment successfully shrank the brain tumour, but Joe was left with difficult side effects from the disease. Paralysis on his right side would force Joe to learn how to talk and walk again, and he spent a good deal of his baby daughter’s first year recovering with help from physical and speech therapies.

In a strange twist of fate, Melissa already knew of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and the local brain tumour fundraising walks. She’d participated in the Spring Sprint previously, though in support of her brother’s colleague. “I had no idea that years later, I’d be doing this for my husband,” she explains.

In April 2015 the Martellis were gearing up for the Brampton Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk). And best of all, Joe was planning to walk the route with his team, rather than be in his wheelchair. “We were in palliative care last summer and to see Joe’s turnaround is just incredible,” says Melissa. “He’s my hero, my champion – a true inspiration!”

When asked about why, given their busy home and work schedules, the Martelli family takes the time and effort to fundraise in support of the brain tumour community, Melissa says it’s a way to show support for every survivor faced with a diagnosis. “The search for a cure is why we do this – the hope for a cure, and ultimately to make a difference for all survivors. We can never give up!”

Update: For 2016 Joe will be back to the Brampton Brain Tumour Walk. We can't wait to see you there! 

A big thank you to Melissa and Joe for sharing their brain tumour journey in support of the Brampton Brain Tumour Walk!

The movement to end brain tumours is stronger thanks to you.

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Story posted: April 2015 

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