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Local preschooler battling terminal brain cancer

Four-year-old Melody Sullivan-Massuk of Martinez, recently diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal brain tumor. (COURTESY / On File)
Four-year-old Melody Sullivan-Massuk of Martinez, recently diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal brain tumor. (COURTESY / On File)
By E. CLARK
Martinez Tribune

MARTINEZ, Calif. – A Martinez family is seeking the public’s help in funding treatment for their daughter, recently diagnosed with a rare form of terminal brain cancer.

Four-year-old Melody Sullivan-Massuk of Martinez started complaining about leg pains this fall, followed by blurry vision. The family pediatrician attributed the leg soreness to mere growing pains, but in January, when Melody began having trouble walking, a scan revealed she had a brain tumor.

Melody was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG, a highly aggressive cancer found at the base of the brain, making it difficult to treat. Approximately 300 children, usually between the ages of five and nine, are diagnosed with DIPG each year.

While the prognosis for DIPG remains very poor, with most children living only six to nine months after diagnosis, Melody’s family is trying to remain strong and hope experimental treatment will cure their once healthy, active daughter.

“Melody has a strong spirit,” the family said on their GoFundMe web page, where donations are being accepted. “[We] are going to do everything we can to beat this horrible disease. We can’t imagine life without her.”

Since the diagnosis, Melody has been taking daily trips to Kaiser Hospital in Oakland where they hope to slow her tumor. But she’s also being considered for a clinical drug trial at UCSF, and another treatment option not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration – an experimental treatment in the United Kingdom that would place a catheter in Melody’s skull, delivering the medication directly to the tumor.
Travel and treatment, however, will cost approximately $100,000 – a hefty sum the family hopes to raise through their GoFundMe page and through local fundraisers.

Thus far, the “Melody’s fight against brain cancer” page has raised over $56,000, but the family is hoping another $50,000 in donations will come in soon, allowing them to seek timely treatment.

“We are asking everyone to please spread this campaign around wherever you can,” the family said on GoFundMe.com. “The response so far has been truly amazing. It’s touched the hearts of Melody’s entire family. It’s great to know that there are so many wonderful, caring people out there that are coming to Melody’s aid. Please keep her in your prayer’s too, we believe they are working!”

To donate to Melody’s treatment fund, visit https://www.gofundme.com/help-melody. Donations of any amount are welcomed and can be made anonymously, or with messages for Melody and her family. A fundraiser will also take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 26, at the Moose Lodge, 414 Escobar St., Martinez. Live music will be featured, with a $20 donation requested at the door.

“We’re not giving up on her, and we just don’t want anyone else to give up on her either,” Melody’s dad, David Massuk, told KTVU. “We’re hoping on a miracle here.”

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