Drawing from her journey with childhood cancer, Melody Lomboy-Lowe is now uplifting the cancer community during its hardest moments through a portrait series.
While some may hesitate to play the part of public spokesperson for the cancer journey, Melody Lomboy-Lowe confidently leaned into the role all before the age of 10.
After being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at only six years old, Lomboy-Lowe’s doctors at southern California’s City of Hope National Medical Center noticed she was rather outgoing for her age. Lomboy-Lowe attributes this to her mother, who she describes as the “typical Italian mom: very vocal.” When previous doctors had assessed Lomboy-Lowe and determined her to be in good health after normal bloodwork, it was her mother who fought for her to receive a second opinion.
“[She] was still worried because I had a lump on my neck and pushed to have me seen at City of Hope,” says Lomboy-Lowe. “That’s when I was diagnosed with leukemia. It was in my bone marrow and my spinal fluid. My mom had kept on pushing even though doctors had said I was fine. And I think that’s what saved my life.”
Seeing firsthand the power in being outspoken, Lomboy-Lowe was open to talking with others about her experience with childhood cancer. City of Hope flew Lomboy-Lowe and her family out to speaking events across the country where she helped numerous charities raise funds for cancer research.
After completing treatment at nine years old, Lomboy-Lowe eventually went on to be an accomplished swimmer, marry her teenage love (now an oncologist, a career choice inspired by Lomboy-Lowe) and even have three children. While she went through a phase in high school and college of keeping her cancer experience hidden, the opportunity to provide comfort and hope to friends or their families who received their own diagnosis ultimately could not be ignored.
“I just felt this need to really be like, ‘Look, there is hope. You’ve known me as a friend for two years and you didn’t even know I’m a cancer survivor. I’m doing everything you’re doing and I’m healthy and I’m thriving,’” she says. “I want people to know there’s a life after cancer. It doesn’t have to be a bad one.”
In the spirit of this message, Lomboy-Lowe created Luna Peak Foundation with her niece, Gracelyn Bateman. With an age difference of only 12 years, though, Lomboy-Lowe says the pair are more like sisters.
After suddenly losing her father when she was 26, Bateman sought a way to uplift survivors in the grief community at the same time Lomboy-Lowe was looking to give back to the cancer community beyond speaking and volunteering. They decided to form an organization creating books and products to celebrate life.
Their latest project, “Beyond Remission: Words of Advice for Thriving,” is a collection of portraits and words of wisdom from more than 100 cancer warriors of all types, ages and backgrounds—a visual representation of what remission looks like. They’ve partnered with hospitals and oncology offices to distribute the book to newly diagnosed patients and their loved ones.
“We want them to know there’s a community out there,” Lomboy-Lowe says. “When a patient gets cancer, the entire family gets cancer. So, it’s not just the patient that feels that; it’s the siblings or parents or caregivers too. This book actually helps all of them.”
Lomboy-Lowe and Bateman hope “Beyond Remission” encourages those who may be feeling overwhelmed, lost or anxious that healing even in the hardest of times is possible. “One thing I have learned from meeting so many cancer survivors is that cancer either chooses the strongest people or cancer makes you stronger,” Lomboy-Lowe writes in the book’s introduction. “Either way, survivors are the most amazing humans.”
“Beyond Remission: Words of Advice for Thriving” is now available in English and Spanish on Amazon. Donate a copy to a cancer warrior and learn more about the organization at lunapeakfoundation.org. You can also find Luna Peak on Instagram at @lunapeakfoundation.
Taylor is a writer and editor with extensive experience in the health and wellness industries.