Cancer, as everyone knows, is a beast.
And Melissa Anne Dabas battled that monster – triple negative breast cancer, an onerous form of the disease. She had a double mastectomy, and punishing rounds of chemo that smacked her with every side effect.
In February, the 42-year-old Virginia mother of two got the thrilling all-clear.
Melissa, a first-rank Lady Gaga Little Monster superfan who goes to every show, knew how she wanted to celebrate: At Lady Gaga’s Washington, D.C., show on Nov. 19.
Not just two seats – a massive party.
She bought 26 tickets right then and there. Ten of them box seats, the rest at the 100-level. Her two kids, her husband, the nurses, doctors, everyone who helped her fight cancer would be there.
“When I saw the credit card bill,” said her husband, Sanjay “Jay” Dabas. “I couldn’t believe it. $10,000? That was for the tickets? JUST the tickets?”
Even for a doctor, that was a huge bill to swallow.
But this woman – who fought for kids as a court-appointed advocate, who worked as a PTA volunteer and a fundraiser for disabled children, who survived a difficult and abusive childhood, who always held the entire household together while he treated patients – she deserved that kind of party, Jay conceded.
He regrets – deeply regrets – his first reaction to that bill.
On Sept. 2, listening to Lady Gaga, she died.
In the following days, her grieving husband wrestled with what next? How could he honour her with more than a funeral?
The Indian community in Winchester, Virginia, is holding a huge celebration for her next month. She was a star in that world.
“The only Jewish woman there, and she was at the centre of everything,” Jay said.
It started with getting their sons, Avinash, 11, and Sajan, 8, involved in the cultural celebrations. Eventually, Melissa was heading their entire, Bollywood-level Diwali celebrations. She did the music, the costumes, she taught all the kids and even some of the adults all the traditional dances.
But he wanted to do more, like Melissa.
So this is what he came up with. He’s going to keep the Lady Gaga party alive, some friends and family will go. But he’s raffling off 10 of the primo box seats. And the money will go to help those families Melissa spent her final days with – the folks whose lives are devastated by both the toll and the cost of cancer.