President Jimmy Carter was recently presented with a Courage Award at the 20th Anniversary Wings of Hope for Melanoma gala by the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF). President Carter is the great uncle to Meredith’s husband. In this video for the MRF, President Carter discusses the advances that have been made in the treatment of melanoma since Meredith’s untimely passing.
On February 24, 2014, our dear friend Meredith Legg Stapleton passed away at the age of 26 from ocular melanoma (OM). We met Meredith when she kindly donated her time to travel from South Carolina to Toronto to film Dear 16 Year Old Me. The minute we met Meredith, we knew we were in the presence of someone very special. With her gorgeous smile, sparkling eyes and charming Southern accent, Meredith stole our hearts.
This Hall of Fame basketball player was a beloved and respected figure wherever she lived but particularly, in her University town of Aiken, South Carolina. She held many records including all- time leader in scoring and sinking the most three-pointers in one game career – just to name a few. In addition to her success on the court, Meredith achieved academic and career success and was popular with her classmates and colleagues.
Diagnosed with OM when she was just 22, Meredith was determined not to let this serious illness stop her from living life to the fullest and chose to use her illness to help raise awareness. When she participated in the filming of Dear 16 Year Old Me in 2011, her OM had spread to her liver, but you would never have known it from her energy and enthusiasm. She was so excited to be part of this project and like us, never dreamed of the worldwide attention it would garner. Meredith shone in the video. Numerous people reached out to her to express their admiration. Many others told her that she had motivated them to get checked and their lives had been saved through early diagnosis and successful treatment. As in her everyday life, Meredith was an inspiration to countless young people – showing fierce determination, zest for life and quiet courage and dignity.
To know Meredith was to know a whole community of people who loved her. We were so fortunate through Meredith to get to know her incredible parents, siblings and friends. It was not surprising that Meredith was raised by and surrounded herself with people who were as genuine, kind and lovely as she was.
In October 2012, Meredith married her high school sweetheart, Christopher Stapleton – a truly wonderful man. Again, Meredith took this opportunity to raise awareness, appearing in the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta” and speaking bravely about her melanoma with her mom, sister and best girlfriends by her side. Meredith’s wedding was on a lovely fall day, befitting this stunning bride. It was a privilege to all those present to watch these two young people, so obviously in love, exchange their wedding vows.
Enjoying newlywed life, Meredith tackled her cancer bravely – participating without complaint in any available treatment that her tireless parents and healthcare providers could track down for her. When all treatment options were sadly exhausted, Meredith faced this final journey with the same spirit that she had lived her whole life.
Surrounded by those who loved her, Meredith passed away on February 24, 2014, just a few days before her 27th birthday. Our thoughts are with her family – her beloved husband Christopher, her devoted parents Basil and Robin, her sister and brother-in-law, Lyndsi and Rick, her brother Trey and her darling nephew and nieces, in addition to her countless friends and admirers.
We love you Meredith and you will always be in our hearts and thoughts
by Elyse Sunshine and the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund