Cancer Brought Lindsey to Glennon, Remission and Broadcasting
“I have met a lot of neat people because of Glennon, and it has changed my life. Who knows where I would be right now if I didn’t have cancer?” asked Lindsey Meglio just a few days before her 23rd birthday. That evening she returned to Chicago, where she works as a researcher for the Oprah Winfrey television show.
Lindsey was hospitalized at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center on her 11th birthday in 1994. That day she was diagnosed with widespread Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“I had been really, really sick for around three months. I had bad pains in my stomach and would throw up every night. I was so weak I was passing out. I was so skinny,” she recalled. “They did an exploratory laparotomy and found I had two tumors the size of golf balls in my stomach. They removed those and I went through nine months of chemotherapy and was put into remission.”
About three months later, however, Lindsey again experienced symptoms. “As soon as Dr. Gale walked in the door, I knew by the look on his face that I had relapsed. Everything was worse. I had cancer in my blood and tumors near my heart and tumors back in the same area as the original ones. I was diagnosed on my birthday again. I was 12 years old.” Lindsey’s second course of treatment included a transfusion of her own stem cells, which were drawn from her blood and frozen for use after chemotherapy. She also underwent radiation therapy.
“When we passed the phase of my body not rejecting the stem cell transplant, it was like a miracle. Everyone was so excited,” she said.
Her doctor at Glennon was Gordon Gale, M.D., of the division of hematology and oncology. He recalls her as “vivacious and cute as could be. She was very articulate and talked incessantly. And she was a schemer.”
Lindsey recalls her efforts to avoid treatments. “I was a fireball. I would run and hide in the hospital. I would tell my parents I was going to the cafeteria and stay in closets. My parents couldn’t find me for two hours. One morning when we had an appointment I escaped from home. I went to the neighbor’s yard and hid in their tree house. We were late.”
Lindsey did not realize how sick she was at the time. “When I was 11 years old, I did not know what cancer was. I really thought I could get a prescription, take some medicine and I would be okay. I didn’t know it was life or death. My parents never gave me dying as an option, which I think was a good thing. I was always really optimistic.”
It took many weeks for her immune system to recover after her second period of treatment. Then she was off and running. “I was always a kid and tried to do everything normal,” she said.
Lindsey’s outgoing personality and speaking skills led to her appointment as Glennon’s ambassador to the Children’s Miracle Network, and she assisted with broadcasts of the CMN telethon. In 1997 she was master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking of a Glennon addition that included the new Bob Costas Cancer Center.
“That is when I started thinking about journalism. I liked being in front of the camera and working behind the camera – the whole adrenaline of journalism,” she said.
“After her therapy they would give her the microphone and she would interview people for the telethon,” Gale said. “She was very smooth and articulate. She struck me as unbelievably mature for a high school girl. I think she is going to be famous some day.”
Lindsey graduated from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism in 2005 and moved to Chicago with a friend. She did free-lance video production work until she landed the production job with Harpo.
“At Mizzou we have our own TV station and I produced the news there. I knew I wanted to do production. Being behind the camera is where you can be more creative,” she said.
“As a journalist, I am naturally curious. I love what I am doing, plus I am working for a company I really respect. It is really cool because I am very involved in the show.”
She continues to see Gale for the annual checkups she will have throughout her life to be monitored for a reoccurrence of cancer or side effects of the therapies she received.
Lindsey considers her friends at Glennon as her second family. “I spent so much of my life there. When I go there I am comfortable. It is something how much the people there touched our lives. When I look at Glennon now, I am so proud. It has grown so much. Being diagnosed with cancer was terrible because of what I had to go through. It changed my life in so many ways, good and bad.
“I just found out the other day that my nurse Marsha (Steffen) has a framed picture of us in her house. It almost brought me to tears. These people really do love what they’re doing. It really shows.”