Melinda Clark Thrives after Cancer and Comes Back to Leave Hoag Better Because She Was Here
No one was more surprised than Melinda Clark when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in March of 2014. A self-described exercise junkie, the healthy 53-year-old had long enjoyed a plant-based diet and daily yoga. Melinda loved her active lifestyle on the Big Island of Hawaii, happily married with two young-adult children. But, the “good life” began to crumble with the reality of her diagnosis.
Never one to give in to fear, Melinda made immediate plans to get her care at home in Hawaii. She soon discovered that if she wanted the most advanced care, she needed to leave Hawaii. Her good friend and cycling buddy, who was also a local surgeon, strongly recommended that she go to the very best he knew– Hoag Family Cancer Institute and Melvin J. Silverstein, M.D., F.A.C.S., Gross Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Oncoplastic Breast Surgery.
Within 10 minutes of her first call to Hoag she had an appointment scheduled with Dr. Silverstein for later that week. Within 48 hours of that first call, the Hoag Breast Care Center Nurse Navigator had scheduled her surgery and supporting appointments with a plastic surgeon, radiation oncologist and oncologist. Melinda remembers this as the “beginning of my love affair with Hoag.” Her tumor removal and reconstruction occurred simultaneously during her oncoplastic surgery. Due to the particularities of her case, her Hoag team recommended she follow up with five weeks of radiation.
Melinda made a conscious choice to use her cancer treatment experience as a healing time. She dubbed her daily radiation her “radiance” treatments. Staying in her brother’s pop-up trailer in Newport Dunes, she chose to cycle the eight-mile round trip to Hoag as a way to combat fatigue. During her five weeks of treatment she clocked over 500 miles. From the very first day she noticed there were no bike racks and an idea took hold. She began to do research, recruit family and friends, and raise the funds to place eight bike racks around the Hoag campus. Between her family and supporters, Melinda quickly secured the funds for the first five.
Making her way home after a treatment, she was still wondering how to raise the rest of the money when she began a companionable conversation with two fellow cyclists. She told them about the bike rack project, and they excitedly shared that they often rode to raise money for local medical charities. An instant bond formed that led The Weekend Warriors, a group of philanthropic cyclists, to donate the funds above and beyond what was needed for the remaining three bike racks.
On February 2, 2015, during a joyous ribbon-cutting ceremony, Melinda dedicated the eight bike racks to the Hoag physicians who cared for her and expressed her gratitude to her family and The Weekend Warriors. “This project is another miracle on my journey of healing from breast cancer,” she shared. “I’m so filled with joy that I have this amazing way to give back to Hoag and inspire other cancer patients to incorporate exercise into their healing program.”