The story of a 12-year-old Galion girl who was diagnosed last week with four tumors has captured the heart of the city.
About 400 attended a welcome home gathering early Wednesday evening in Heise Park for Melanie Wheeler, a sixth-grader at Galion Middle School, after she was released earlier in the day from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Melanie’s father, Tom Wheeler, said on Friday that Melanie’s condition is rare.
“There are only 36 cases in the United States and Canada like Melanie’s,” he said. “The tumors in her brain are slow growing tumors, they are hopeful and we have no timeline of growth to go by.”
Tom said the latest diagnosis is that this will be a cancer she will have all of her life.
“Melanie isn’t saying why me, so we aren’t saying why us,” he said. “We are going to take it on as a family. We can help the next case with what we learned with the doctors. Cancer picked the wrong family to mess with, we got this.”
The event was planned on a few hours notice on Wednesday.
Jean A. Wheeler, grandmother of Melanie, walked down the line of people at the event thanking them for coming out.
“I know she’s home. I know she’s safe,” she said.
Summer Miniard of Galion, reached out to local athletic teams who helped with the event.
“If it was one of my kids, I would want as much support,” she said.
Summer has two sons, 15 and 9 years old, and a six year old daughter.
Hayli Marcum, 11 years old, said she knows Melanie.
“I was sad (to hear the news),” Marcum said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
“We’re praying for her,” her mom Samanda Anderson added.
The family was humbled by the turnout.
“I grew up here, this was always home and there are good people here,” Tom Wheeler said on Friday. “I just didn’t know how many there were. I was amazed that so many people took time out of their day to lift Melanie’s spirits. It’s hard to believe that they would do that. I can’t believe how many people were there on such a bad day, at such a short notice.”
Although the family has been thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, Tom Wheeler urged restraint on certain social media posts.
“We want to have the discussion,” he said. “We need as much help as we can get. I just don’t want Melanie involved. Everyone should use judgment on what they post, she’s twelve years old and if you are going to talk about the affects of what cancer can do, when she see’s that stuff it brings on questions. Let’s not tag her in those posts. That’s all I am trying to say. Some of that was younger people and some of that was adults. The younger people you totally understand their aren’t thinking that way but for adults to do that. It’s not necessarily people from Galion. This has gotten so big so fast. We are hearing from people all over the county. It’s great, everyone wants to help. But mainly we need prayers.”
A GoFundMe page for Melanie can be found here.