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Article Published November 27, 2013
Making Miracles Happen
By By Pam Johnson
Inspired by her identical twin sister, Lindsay Marottoli Greenberg is working to bring hope and positive change to those impacted by lung cancer.
Lindsay's sister, Melissa Marottoli Hogan, lost her battle with stage four lung cancer on Dec. 9, 2012. A non-smoker, Melissa was diagnosed in 2007 at age 27 and spent the last five years of her life remaining upbeat and, with the help of her loved ones, traveling the world in search of healing treatments.
After heart disease, lung cancer is the second leading cause of all deaths in the United States-but also one of the most underfunded. One very telling statistic: National breast cancer fundraising delivered $26,398 per breast cancer death in 2012; lung cancer fundraising, just $1,442 per death.
Of 403 who succumb daily to lung cancer, 17.9 percent have never smoked. And, like her sister, a growing number of young women are being struck, notes Lindsay. Because it's viewed as a "smoker's disease," the nation doesn't seem to be thinking about the young individuals and non-smokers who are affected.
In Melissa's honor, Lindsay, her family, and friends are working to change that by establishing the non-profit Melissa Marottoli Hogan Foundation, which embraces the tagline "Making Miracles Happen." As part of November's National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the foundation is hosting Gala for a Cure on Friday, Nov. 29 at WoodWinds in Branford.
Although the foundation's new, the gala, which is already sold out, will be the second of its type organized by Marottoli family members. An advocate who worked tirelessly for the cause, Melissa organized the first gala in 2008.
"From the time she was first diagnosed, Mel was a huge advocate of lung cancer awareness. She had a gala for Dana Farber Cancer Institute because that's where she was being treated," says Lindsay.
The location for Gala for a Cure has special meaning to the family.
"My father built WoodWinds in 1992, so it was always a very important place to us," says Lindsay. "We grew up there, Melissa got married there?It's a really important location for our family."
Sal and Ali Marottoli raised Melissa, Lindsay, and their big sister, Kristin Marottoli Peck, in Guilford (the family now lives in Branford). The Marottoli family, as well as extended family and friends, are assisting Lindsay with both the foundation and gala.
The twins graduated in 2000 from Guilford High School (GHS). Lindsay's husband, Adam Greenberg, was a GHS baseball standout who's known locally for his Major League and Minor League professional play. Melissa married her husband, Matt Hogan, on Aug. 25, 2012, during a WoodWinds ceremony featured in The Connecticut Bride magazine.
Looking at a wedding photo of a stunning Melissa, just three months before her passing, Lindsay says, "She was always positive and had hope."
The Nov. 29 gala will be a celebration of Melissa's life as well as an important fundraiser, assisting with groundbreaking work at Smilow Cancer Hospital and going toward helping families defray medical expenses, even if it's just "buying a wig to boost morale," says Lindsay.
"We want to help with things like that. We want to help with the little things as well as the big picture."
Within that big picture is Lindsay's hope the foundation will become instrumental in supporting advancement of innovative treatments. Lindsay worked tirelessly to help Melissa locate treatment opportunities, worldwide.
"For five years, we were at work, and our celebrations were about new chemo, new treatments, or new breakthroughs," says Lindsay. "I got married to my husband in 2010 and a month later, I took a leave of absence and traveled with my father to California; Tijuana, Mexico; Germany; Austria?We spoke to some of the best doctors in the world and tried to find the best treatment centers for Melissa. She had a lot of immunotherapy and so that's what some of our fundraising is going to. Immunotherapies are making progress in the U.S., but they're being introduced slowly."
Lindsay and Melissa often journaled their experiences; including one only possible for identical twins: extracting Lindsay's white blood cells to harvest "killer cells" and injecting them, 5 million to 20 million at a time, into Melissa.
"Mel and I were the first people ever in the entire world to do this. We thought we were going to write a book about it, and I am going to write that book," says Lindsay, who also welcomes contact from anyone seeking help, advice, or information about therapies and other avenues encountered during her efforts to help her sister.
Knowing his wife, Adam Greenberg is certain that book will come about.
"Lindsay is somebody that people can look up," he says. "She is carrying on the legacy of her sister. I'm proud of my wife and my whole family for getting through day by day and knowing, no matter what, you never forget, but you continue to live in honor of that person."
For more information or to make a donation, find Making Miracles Happen by the Melissa Marottoli Hogan Foundation on Facebook; or contact Lindsay Marottoli Greenberg at email@example.com.