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"Waiting Kills" German Professor Mike Meliss

I hoped I would never have to add my father's profile to this page. So many times in the last one-and-half years I read it, always with tears in my eyes. Now our time with Mike Meliss is over, he passed away in the night of 31th of August 2000. Let me tell you about a wonderful man.

My father, Professor Michael Meliss, called Mike by everybody who crossed his path, lived in Germany, where he was a distinguished researcher in the area of solar energy. He had studied mechanical engineering (spending a pre-study practice time in industry, where he and the other students spent their breaks sitting on soft asbestos ropes and playing cards...) but specialised early on in research. Since heas a young man he dreamed of building a solar campus, a place whereall the knowledge about sustasinable and regenerative energies would be concentrated and conveyed to students.

In Germany, nuclear energy had strong support, and my father's ideas seemed just idealistic nonsense. He could have made a lucrative career in the nuclear energy sector. But he was sure that this was the wrong way. He was not taken seriously.

Until the catastrophe of Cernobyl in Ukraine, when Europe woke up to the dangers of nuclear energy. After that, my father's work was appreciated widely. He looked for solutions to keep our planet inhabitable for further generations. And he found solutions.

He made his way in the academic world, he was a brilliant scholar and fascinating, dedcated teacher. Mike Meliss was happily married and proud father of two grown-up and two young children, when his life changed: he was diagnosed with Malignant Mesothelioma in March 1999. He was 56 years old. The first stones for his solar campus had just been laid. The German doctors could only tell him: prepare to die soon, there is nothing we can do.

But he was a fighter and told me on the phone: there must be a way. Like many of the people who wrote on these pages, I (his eldest daughter) immediately sat down to search the Internet, and when I found your website, had hope again. As soon as my father left hospital, we checked out all the possibilities, and in April 1999 my parents went to see Dr Sugarbaker. Indeed my father's overall health was so good, his MM epithelian type and in the very first stage, so that there was no problem to be accepted for the EPP surgery with hot lavage.

When my parents came back from Boston, they were impressed with the sincerity and human approach of the American doctors. They went to have my father undergo the treatment in the summer of 1999, and although he had some post-surgery heart distress and had to be operated twice, nearly lost his voice due to vocal cord paralysis, we all felt the surgery was a success.

The check in winter 1999 had encouraging results, but we were all afraid of a recurrence. Nevertheless, my father underwent surgery to have his voice restored, and when I heard him for the first time with his old voice, I was sure we were after the worst.

In May, my father started to have a strange feeling of fullness in his abdomen, and in July, his doctors in Boston told him that the mesothelioma had recurred. They were helpful, gave him addresses in Europe to turn to, and supported his spirit as they had done all way long. But when we celebrated my parents' wedding day, 1st of August 2000, we knew that there would be no returns of this special day.

We made it a wonderful day, we had once more the warm and loving family atmosphere, and had once more a memory to cherish. For the children and grandchildren, this is the way they will remember him: smiling and lifting his glass of wine, enjoying life and never complaining. Just a great man, interested in everything he saw around, full of humour, and busy busy busy all the time.

A day later, he started chemotherapy with a very reliable oncologist in Germany. He was a fighter, and indeed the volume of liquid in his abdomen went down. His death was unexpectedly fast, and although he suffered in the end, he was in clear consciousness and his curious character showed to the last moment.

He died on the living room sofa, supported by my mother and our family doctor. His last words were: Is this dying?

Without him, our lives have become empty and sad. We just don't believe that we won't hear his funny remarks, his precise remarks and his questions about everything and anything any more. Everybody loved him, because in spite of his academic success and his social standing, he was a man who gave respect to everybody.

He loved physical work and built our house with his own hand, and he was a sports and outdoor man. He never gave up hope, he wanted to know everything and be involved in every decision. He was light on his feet, a great dancer, and used tools as if they were a part of his body. He had immense personal charm that helped him convince people of his ideas, and made the salespeople in all the shops he frequented, the cleaning ladies of university, and the simple farmers in our village, and all his students liked him. He built relationships with all the world, because for him, there was no outward measure for human beings. To him, there were no unimportant or uninteresting people.

Sometimes he had enenmies because it was hard for many to believe that he followed his aims without concern for his own benefit. They scrutinised him to find his personal advantage of this actions. There was none. He was a pure idealist, and a tough pragmatist.

We miss him greatly. We are so proud of him.

We are now busy foundig a German Mesothelioma Foundation, helping patients to find information. So many people turned to my father for help and advice. I will inform you of any new development, and I thank you all for your support and advice. To all those, who sit at night poring over those pages with heart in their throat - our prayers are with you.

Our decisions, based on the information given her, were right. If you have MM, don't give up. Fight. My father told me in our last conversation: "The treatment in Boston is the right way. The Americans fight, while the German doctors wait. Waiting kills. Even if some of Dr. Sugarbaker's patients die on the way, and I will be one of them, the way is right. One has to fight."

Silja Harel

** POSTED OCTOBER 2, 2000 **