Fight like The Mouse

Fight like a mouse.

This phrase has been “adopted” by my sister, her friends and family during her battle with cancer. Call it a rallying cry morphed from her childhood nickname given to her by my father.

Three years younger than I, my sister was first diagnosed with breast cancer about three and a half years ago. She underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment and hoped she had it whipped.

She didn’t.

The cancer returned in May 2015; it had metastasized to her liver and would spread to her lymph nodes and bones before she noticed a knot on her head.

April 15 she went to the doctor and was told the newly-formed brain tumor was too large to be treated. She was placed on hospice care and told that morning she had one to three days to live.

I arrived at her Colorado Springs home that evening to be with her for her final days and to say our heart-wrenching good-byes.

When I left Saturday morning, eight days later, she was not only still alive, but stronger than when I arrived. Her vision had returned as the swelling caused by the tumors had decreased and she was eating and drinking regularly.

Fight like a mouse.

I would modify that rallying cry, though ever so slightly. A mouse isn’t a very good fighter. Mice are sneaky. Quiet. Timid. My sister clearly is a great fighter, and anyone who has ever met her would never use terms like sneaky, quiet and timid to describe her.

As such, I would alter the phrase to fight like The Mouse.

My sister has lived her life in such an extraordinary manner that the definitive article is only appropriate. She’s not one of many.

She is The One.

The Mouse.

And for me, the phrase fight like The Mouse means much more than how she is battling this debilitating illness.

Melissa has been fighting for much longer than she has had cancer and it is how she has fought that will be her legacy and the example which I will try to model in my life and instill in my children.

Melissa has an insane ability to accept, and embrace, who she is. She was never embarrassed by her maiden name, her diminutive size, her battle with cancer, or her Christian faith. I have never met someone who is more comfortable with who they are. Her life has no room for insecurity.

Fight like The Mouse.

Melissa has always been a person who has love in her heart for all, but especially those deemed “inferior” by society. Her love has no boundaries. Her heart has no room for hatred.

Fight like The Mouse.

I believe her most admirable quality, though, may be her ability to forgive, even when the party who has slighted her may not want or ask forgiveness, or even realize they wronged her. Her soul has no room for anger.

Fight like The Mouse.

People worldwide, literally, will mourn the loss of Mouse. And they should, as she is one of the most remarkable people they will ever meet. Anyone whose life has intersected with Melissa, either as a family member, friend, or student has been enriched because of it.

I will mourn largely because my children will largely know about their amazing Aunt by legend only, almost like a mythical figure. Except their Aunt Mouse wasn’t a myth, or a legend. She was a real-life superhero who gave us all a standard to live by.

And my children will learn about her love, her forgiveness, her compassion, her confidence.

And they will learn what it means to fight like The Mouse.

Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, What’s Going On, has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at