In My Secrets of Survivorship, Melissa Mae Palmer tells the story of how she found strength to carry on when she was tempted to give in. From childhood on, Melissa knew something was seriously wrong. She downplayed her chronic weakness, fatigue and pain until age thirty-six, when she was finally diagnosed with Pompe disease; a rare genetic disorder caused by an enzyme deficiency. She then went on to battle breast cancer at the age of 40. Despite requiring biweekly hospitalizations to keep her alive, she is a survivor and she has built a life full of love and faith.Here is her story.



Melissa Mae Palmer

People frequently hear me use the phrase, “We are all survivors of something”. Whether it be a devastating illness, an accident, the death of someone close to us or to a lesser extent, the loss of a job or a failed marriage, at some point we will face one or all of these events in our life. Survivorship is a deeply personal experience because none of us will undergo the exact same struggle and none of us will respond to these events in the same way. All we can do is share our story of survivorship and hope that, in some small way, our own successes and failures help someone else through his or her own journey.

In my first book “My Secrets of Survivorship,” I wrote about my lifelong struggle with an undiagnosed disease called Pompe, a destructive and often deadly neuromuscular disorder. I was finally properly diagnosed, and through bi-weekly enzyme injections, I’m able to live a semi-normal life. However, I am fully aware that Pompe will shorten my life, to what degree I do not know.

In my upcoming book, “Survivorship: Breast Cancer at 40,” I write about what happens when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my fourth decade of life. These two stories of survivorship are at different ends of the spectrum. The first book was a search for an answer to a lifelong illness. The second story starts abruptly, and in many ways, this suddenness left me scared, helpless, and questioning my faith in God and my own willingness to continue on with life. We’ve all heard the saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That wasn’t my case. After fighting Pompe for so long, being diagnosed with breast cancer just left me tired, angry and feeling defeated.

Through the love of my friends and family, I eventually recovered my survivor instincts and went on to fight this disease, but the dark path I went to get there was a difficult one When a situation like this blindsides us, we may think we know how we’ll respond, but we really don’t. You may find a hero’s strength and you may find yourself more frightened than you’ve ever been in your life. There is no right or wrong way to feel. You can politely take advice from loved ones but they can’t tell you how to feel. You may suffer from the same illness as they do or you might have each lost a spouse, but there are a million tiny variances that will cause you to react differently. My playbook won’t work for you, and your own method of surviving won’t be the same for your neighbor.

That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from other people’s situations. If someone can identify with just one of my struggles, perhaps it will provide them with some sort of comfort. That is the real reason why authors write about their experiences. It certainly isn’t about the money – rather it’s helping someone see things from a new perspective.

After my breast cancer ordeal, I started a cancer foundation and devoted my life to helping those with life-threatening diseases. I quickly found the best way to help others is just being there in their time of need, letting people ask me questions that they find important and lending a shoulder to cry on. One-on-one volunteering with an individual that is facing a life-threatening disease can have a wondrous effect on their lives, and it costs nothing but a few hours of one’s time.

By the grace of God, I have now been cancer-free for almost four years. The memories of my experience still haunt me and every day that passes, I still worry that it will come back. My final story of survivorship hasn’t been written yet, and the same goes for everyone reading this article. Because we are all survivors of something already doesn’t make it any easier when we face our next crises. However, if we open our hearts to others who are fighting to survive now, we can learn something about our own selves in the process.

My Secrets of Survivorship: We Solved The Mystery! is available on AMAZON

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Melissa Mae Palmer, a professional counselor and mother of five, is a breast cancer survivor living with Pompe disease. Every two weeks she undergoes enzyme replacement therapy to extend her life. She volunteers her time to support children receiving this same treatment at Duke University. She is the cofounder of Cancer Soul Survivors, a supportive organization for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois. She is a top fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and has served as the Relay for Life queen of the Barrington chapter of the ACS.

Title: My Secrets of Survivorship 
Author: Melissa Mae Palmer
Genre: Medical, Self Help
ISBN: 9781547101172
Publication Date:  2017
Publisher: D’Agostin Publishing
Pages: 130

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