COURAGE, STRENGTH, AND THE DRIVE TO FIND HOPE
When Melanie Wheeler first became ill in the summer of 2020, she suspected COVID-19 was the culprit. Having just lost her job due to the pandemic, she decided to avoid the emergency room. After two negative COVID tests Melanie’s condition only continued to worsen, and 27 days later she was rushed to the emergency room struggling to breathe.
It was then that a large mass was found behind her heart. The diagnosis of stage 4 lymphoma meant the disease had already reached her spleen, kidneys, lungs, blood, and bone marrow.
While treatable, the advanced cancer would require aggressive chemotherapy.
Through the devastating news and brutal chemotherapy treatment, Melanie was supported by her fiancé, Keaton. As Keaton sought to inspire and encourage her, his passion for Miatas became a shared one — with Melanie drawn in by the car’s handling, the joy of scenic mountain rides, and the welcoming community of passionate MX-5 enthusiasts. Drives in Keaton’s Miata became a source of reprieve for the tight-knit couple and Melanie found new motivation to recover from her diagnosis. She set her sights on a Mazda MX-5 Miata ND RF “in the best colour it comes in, Soul Red.”
“For six months I went in every two weeks for four-hour chemo sessions. In those six months I endured over 100 needle sticks, three blood transfusions, fourteen days of antibiotic IVs, one port infection, three-port surgeries and a neutropenic fever which landed me in the hospital for seven days with zero white blood cells,” Melanie said. “It was so aggressive I thought I was going to die and wanted to throw in the towel every day.”
“While my journey was long, I wasn’t going to die without getting in that Miata,” said Melanie. “The ND RF truly inspired me and motivated me to push through the harsh effects of chemo and the constant thoughts of giving up. My favourite chemo chair activity was scoping out my future ND — what trim it would be and how to make it my own — I was excited for it all.”
Once cleared from her harrowing battle with cancer, Melanie was excited not only to return to her career in software but to finally lock down her dream car. After 72 hours on the phone over a period of a week, she had found her MX-5 Miata RF. There were only three within a 300-mile radius of the couple, and one finally belonged to Melanie.
In August 2021 Melanie and Keaton got married, and of course, their Miatas were in attendance. Today, with her cancer in remission, the couple has made their dream move to Florida — where they can drive their Miatas year-round along the sun-soaked Atlantic coastline.
Source: Inside Mazda USA | Drivers Life | My Mazda, My Story