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Daughter continues dad's legacy as volunteer for cancer patients
March 22, 2012
Shelley Megge, left, said her father, Jack Walsh, right, was an inspiration to other cancer patients, having lived 11 years longer than doctors expected. The two drove cancer patients to their treatments as volunteers for Road to Recovery. Now Megge will pick up where her father left off.
Written by. Karen Smith, Observer Staff Writer
Nearly two years ago, Livonia resident Jack Walsh decided it was time to act. He had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer nine years prior, and he was so thankful he was still alive that he wanted to do something to give hope to others fighting cancer.
That's when he heard about Road to Recovery, a volunteer-based American Cancer Society program that transports cancer patients to and from treatment. Since Walsh, 67, couldn't always drive due to the medications he was on, he recruited his daughter Shelley Megge to drive and he became the copilot and a friend to those they took to treatment.
Walsh lost his battle to cancer on Feb. 3, but Megge, also of Livonia, plans to continue his legacy as soon as she finishes recovering from knee surgery.
“It's so worth it,” she said. “It's awesome; you feel amazing. People are going through so much, and everybody's so grateful.”
Megge, 43, plans to take along a letter written by her father to share with each passenger.
‘Basically a miracle'
Megge said her father had a rare cancer. “He should have only lived six months to a year.” But it wound up being 11 years. “It was basically a miracle.”
A stem cell transplant put him in remission for five years, and then medications were able to control the cancer after it came back.
Megge said her father was so positive, many people didn't know he had cancer. “You never would have known when he was in pain; he just kept going.”
In November, less than two months before he died, he went to Hawaii. “He was never bed-ridden; my dad just went and went.”
His doctor at Our Lady of Hope Cancer Center at St. Mary Mercy Hospital had asked Walsh to write a letter to encourage other cancer patients undergoing stem cell transplants. It was that same letter that he would give to cancer patients to read as he and his daughter transported them to and from cancer treatments through Road to Recovery.
‘Do the things you enjoy'
The letter reads, in part, “If you have cancer, I wish you the best. Don't worry too much and take one day at a time. Do the things you enjoy; it will make you feel better and take your mind off the cancer. And remember, don't sweat the small stuff.”
Now Megge will share that letter with patients she transports with help from her children, Amanda, 23, a student at Eastern Michigan University; Aaron, 20, who's studying to be a paramedic; and Julia, 8, a student at Hoover Elementary.
Megge said she enjoys volunteering for Road to Recovery because it is so flexible. The owner and manager of a Southfield office building, Megge can go onto their web site and choose when she wants to drive patients so it fits within her schedule.
She said some trips are just 15 minutes, some are longer. Some are only one way. Volunteers can drive as much or little as they want — even just once every six months.
“You don't have to make a big commitment; it's a little commitment, and they never pressure you,” she said. She said many cancer patients have their own vehicles, but they don't feel up to driving after treatment or they aren't allowed to drive because of the pain medication they're on. They also don't want to — or can't — depend on friends and family members to take them to each treatment. “If you have to go every week for six weeks, and you miss one appointment, it messes up your treatment plan,” Megge said.
Megge said it will be different driving without her dad, who did most of the talking. “Because he could relate, I leaned on him quite a bit,” she said.
But she's happy to continue driving, and involve her children the way her dad involved her, in order to continue his legacy.
“He wanted so much to give people hope,” she said.
For more information or to volunteer for Road to Recovery, call Andrea Jones at (248) 663-3485 or visit www.cancer.org/roadtorecoverygl
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