Michelle Mueller

Michelle (Ballmann) Mueller’s children asked her what she was going to say when named the Franklin County Relay For Life’s Hero of Hope.

“I hope by fighting now they don’t have to worry about that six-letter word,” Mueller responded. 

Mueller was named the HOH Monday, Feb. 25, during the annual kickoff meeting. The honor is given to a cancer survivor or person who has been an exceptional caretaker for someone who has struggled with cancer.

“I’m so honored to be standing here in front of all of these wonderful heroes,” said Mueller. Photos of former HOHs were lined behind her as she gave her acceptance speech.

Mueller’s story starts around 30 years ago when her younger sister was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 6. Mueller was just 8 at the time.

Her sister’s fight ended after a year.

“Family is so important,” she said, recalling the support her immediate family provided during that time. 

When Mueller was 18 her mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. Although she didn’t tell the family, she was only given an 8 percent chance of living past the first year.

“She didn’t want us to put our lives on hold,” she said. “My mom is my hero because she still was there for us.” 

Her mother lost her fight after four years. 

“I wish my story would end here,” Mueller said, but it doesn’t.

Two years ago, Mueller went into cardiac arrest. She was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. The AED brought her back to life and her infant went into distress. They had to perform a Caesarean section.

Mueller’s youngest child was born in the Cardiac ICU weighing 2 pounds and 1 ounce.

“At the time she was born, the neonatal doctor said ‘We will do all the medicine we can do, but she has to fight,’ ” Mueller said. “She did. She fought. Each day she gets sassier and sassier.”

Following her cardiac arrest, Mueller was given a defibrillator. In January 2017 it went off. Fortunately, it was reading the wrong thing and was just a mistake shock.

However, during the hospital visit Mueller found out she was severely anemic.

On March 9, 2017, she had a colonoscopy. The same day she was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.

“I hear that six-letter word again,” Mueller said. “I knew right away what I had to do. I had to fight. I learned it from my sister. I learned it from my mom.”

Fast forward to last month, Mueller announced her tests showed she is cancer free. Applause erupted in the room.

“This Relay is so important to me,” said Mueller, who hopes her experiences with cancer help others fight through the disease.

A friend recently was diagnosed with cancer and Mueller said she has been able to provide suggestions to help her feel better.

Mueller also said it’s important to find a support group.

This year, the Franklin County Relay For Life will aim to reach $115,000 with 175 survivors and 650 luminarias.

The theme is “Red, White and Blue Relay for You” since it is taking place on Flag Day, June 14. 

Relay For Life raises funds for the American Cancer Society.

Luminaria bags are $5 each and can be purchased at relayforlife.org/franklinmo or at Facebook.com/relay.franklinmo.