Singer, and songwriter, Melissa Marshall was 51 when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in September of 2013. She ignored the telltale signs of colorectal cancer, and ended up being fitted with an ostomy bag. After a lengthy batter Melissa was cured, and began a crusade of inspiration and education.
Because of her high-energy career of nightly musical performances, Melissa felt the toll of years of dancing on her hips and joints. While prepping for a routine hip-replacement surgery, Melissa dealt with fatigue, rectal bleeding, and weight loss. She assumed all of the signs were connected to menopause and the stress of preparing for surgery.
Following months of escalating bleeding, constipation, and irregular bowel movements, Melissa confided in a friend about her struggles. The friend urged Melissa to speak with a colorectal surgeon who, in turn, immediately paused the hip replacement surgery and sent Melissa for a battering of medical tests to determine what was causing all of these irregularities. After a colonoscopy, a tumor the size of a golf ball was found very low near her sphincter. It was cancerous.
After being diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer, Melissa began the arduous wait to see a colorectal specialist that could offer her the care she needed to survive. Melissa ended up receiving a colostomy bag on November 14, 2013, with little chance of a reversal. This meant that, for the rest of her life, she would be living with an ostomy bag. She began chemotherapy on January 31, 2014, as well as radiation from April to March of that same year, Melissa found her body ravaged by their effects. She was frightened that due to the ostomy bag, and the months of chemotherapy, she would never again resume her singing career.
While recuperating from her ostomy surgery, the idea for the No You Cant’cer Butterfly necklace came to her. Melissa wanted a token of her fight against colorectal cancer. She designed the blue-ribboned butterfly charm and had a jeweler set it into reality. Fueled by a new excitement, she penned the song, “No You Cant’cer” about her surprise at being diagnosed and how she would persevere in her attempts to overcome it. Even though Melissa still was unsure if she would ever be able to sing again, writing the inspirational music began to heal her.
After receiving her necklace during the December holidays, Melissa’s jewelry became her trademark and she wore the piece every day. It garnered interest with strangers, some for its beauty, and others for their understanding of what the blue ribbon represented. Melissa found herself sharing her story with others, many of whom didn’t understand what an ostomy bag was. She saw that there were many untruths to the life-saving appliance, and those who did not understand it thought it to be unclean, undesirable, and unnecessary. From these myths, she decided to devote her life to educating the public about colorectal health and ostomy bag realities. From this, the No You Cant’cer Foundation was created.
In early June of 2015, Melissa found the strength to record “No You Cant’er” and begin the task of legitimizing her new nonprofit. She built the idea of “It’s in the Bag,” an educational pamphlet that will be available in all hospitals and colorectal doctors offices. In these publications there will be links to support groups, the dispelling of ostomy myths, and facts to help others take charge of their colorectal health. Colorectal cancer is not “glamorous,” nor are many comfortable discussing it as they are with the more mainstream cancers. After she was found to be cancer-free on July 17, 2014, Melissa found that she had the voice, and the courage, to empower more people to say, “No You Cant’cer.”