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For as long as I could remember (or at least after Austin Powers had coined the term in popular lexicon), my dad always referred to my sister Melissa as “Mini-Me.” While this is mainly because they share a very similar likeness, I would also attribute the moniker to the thoughtfulness, smart, practical thinking, and physical and emotional strength that they both possess. After we found out about our dad’s brain tumor, Melissa had put a significant hold on her career, taking over a month off to be with us. Some goals of her visits extended beyond the bedside, and when she first flew to Pittsburgh from San Diego, she weeded and mowed our parents' lawn. Our dad took pride in his garden and the yard, which had been in disarray since he had been in the hospital. Later, while our dad was nearing the end of his stay at the skilled nursing facility, Melissa thought ahead, measured all of his medical equipment (like the wheelchair and medical bed) and created detailed hand drawn floor plans of our parents’ basement. With these measurements and drawings, she came up with layout possibilities and had spent several nights clearing out, cleaning, and setting up the home for hospice. And at home, the way she documented his schedule, mealtimes, when he took medications, and other related notes impressed many medical professionals who had seen the whiteboard above our dad’s bed. The specificity and thoroughness left no questions, and we could see patterns when we should expect to change him or his positions on the bed. Melissa’s superhuman capabilities amazed me. She was constantly determined to improve our dad’s physical strength, and she became the after hours extension of Occupational and Physical therapy sessions. She would take notes on what exercises were done at the hospital and replicate them at home. Sometimes she would get him to tap his foot and dance to Motown, do air push ups, or work on bridging techniques. And since our dad lost sensation on the left side of his body, she gave him a squeaky toy so he would receive an auditory cue that his left hand was grabbing the ball, and a finger strengthener so he could work on his grip. It became very apparent that our mom and I could not handle taking care of our dad by ourselves, but it really seemed like Melissa could. She was the master of transferring our dad -- a man who was easily 50 pounds heavier than herself -- from the bed, to the wheelchair, to a car, or to any other location he needed to move to. I really don’t think she slept that whole month she was in Pittsburgh since she immediately responded to anything our dad needed at all hours of the day and night. And when we had to take him from home-hospice to the hospice-hospice, Melissa had made sure to stay awake and keep talking to our dad until 12:03 am, when our father passed away. Hearing is thought to be the last sense to go in the dying process, and Melissa made sure that our dad knew that we loved him so much. Afterwards, Melissa had encouraged me to join her in supporting local brain cancer groups. With Melissa’s guidance, we are determined to continue our dad’s legacy and further research and awareness activities across the country.
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