On Wednesday night at Marlins Park, Kristin Mello asked members of the Oakland A's for autographs. Trevor Plouffe, Khris Davis, Yonder Alonso and Liam Hendriks all signed their names on her left arm. Brad Ziegler, a former member of the Athletics, now playing for Marlins, also added his signature to the collection.
The autographs will likely stand the test of time, too -- because they're written in silver ink on her prosthetic arm.
This bad boy is officially a work in progress! 5 down, as many more as possible to go! Thanks again to the players for signing my arm!⚾️������ pic.twitter.com/leAoHAnV8U- Kristin (@ms_kristin) June 14, 2017
Mello, 25, was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma last year, which resulted in a below-the-elbow amputation of her left arm. This week, she was in Florida participating in a research study that involved prosthetics and had some time off. So, she decided to take in a game on the road to watch her favorite team play.
"For years, I had been dealing with problems in my left hand," Mello told MLB.com. "In the beginning of 2009, I first noticed my left pinky finger curling and being numb. I went to the doctors because it was not normal and I had not injured myself."
After some tests, the doctors thought it was an issue with her ulnar nerve and decided to pursue surgery later that same year.
"However," she said, "that surgery ended up flattening my nerve completely, and as a result I lost some of the muscle mass in my left hand."
Fast forward to 2014, her hand was still causing her issues. Once, when she was out with some friends, she injured her wrist; while she didn't think much of it, her wrist had some discoloration and grew to the size of a golf ball.
MRI's had shown a tiny growth in what appeared to be scar tissue in her wrist.
On May 10, 2016, they fused Mello's fingers and performed a biopsy. Two days later, she was told to come back -- that was when they broke the news she had been diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma. They described it to her as "a very rare soft tissue sarcoma that is incredibly aggressive once it metastases." The doctors informed her chemotherapy and radiation have little to no effect on epithelioid sarcoma, so amputation was the best route to go to "prevent the possible spread of ES to [her] lymph nodes and lungs."
Nevertheless, she had one of the most memorable nights of her life on May 19, when she and her family attended an A's game. It was the night before she had the amputation in her left arm.
"[The front office] had a few A's items for me which was so wonderful and extremely unexpected," she explained. "They offered my family BP passes so we could watch from the field, then they offered to also let me throw out a ceremonial first pitch if I was up to it. While we were all talking before we hit the field for BP my brother had mentioned how Reddick was one of my favorite players, and while out watching the A's take batting practice, Travis LoDolce [Director of Marketing for the Oakland A's] waved me over near the dugout and I had the chance to talk with Josh Reddick. After I briefly explained my situation with cancer and amputation, he mentioned how his dad is an amputee."
After hearing Reddick talk about his dad and hearing what he went through, Mello realized her situation was "only a bump in the road and things really weren't so bad."
"I ended up throwing out a ceremonial first pitch to Reddick which was super neat," she said. "That night at the park is one I will remember forever."
After she had the successful surgery, Mello spent her recovery in the hospital watching A's games.
"My family would ask almost every doctor, nurse and assistant that would come through if they were an A's fan," Mello explained. "Regardless of their answer, those individuals got the chance to hear about the wonderful experience we had and were shown pictures from that most unforgettable night."
Following the amputation, tests confirmed no signs of the cancer spreading.
"Seven years and seven surgeries later, I'm thrilled to be pain free and able to adapt and move on to new experiences. I truly couldn't be happier with everything and ever since that A's game [last year], my life has never been better."
In Miami, on Wednesday night, Mello decided to go for it and ask the players for those autographs almost 13 months after she threw that cerenomonial first pitch in Oakland. She decided to gather the signatures on her arm for a way to remind herself how even the simplest of things can have a major impact on her life.