Beach Blast

What: Beach Blast 2013, presented by the MUSC Craniofacial Anomalies & Cleft Lip/Palate Team.

When: 6-11 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Elks Lodge, 1113 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. in West Ashley.

Activities: Beach music, shag contest, photo booth, silent auction, cash bar and concessions. WTMA Talk Radio host Tara Servatius will host the event. Duke and Ashley Melton, whose daughter Ellison endured both cleft lip and palate and leukemia, will be the special guests at the event.

More info: http://Craniofacial.musc.edu/ or contact Sherry Cannon at 792-3251 or cannonss@musc.edu.

Ashley and Duke Melton were well-prepared to deal with the challenges of their daughter Ellison’s cleft lip and palate.

Imaging had picked it up early in Ashley’s pregnancy and the craniofacial team at the Medical University of South Carolina had mapped out a game plan well in advance of delivery.

But life has a way of throwing people monster curve balls.

Seven weeks after she was born, on April 29, 2011, the Meltons noticed some light blue bruising all over her chest.

Blood tests showed the bruising didn’t relate to any of the 500 syndromes associated with cleft lip and palate, but they did show that Ellison had a low white blood cell count.

The Melton’s infant had leukemia, specifically acute myeloid leukemia.

“When I heard the news,” recalls Ashley, “my whole throat immediately closed up and I couldn’t breath. It was crazy. “

The focus of Ellison’s medical care turned to the cancer, starting with apheresis, in which Ellison’s blood was drained out, basically cleaned and retransfused.

In the ensuing months of chemotherapy, the Melton’s family life was turned upside down. Ashley took a leave of absence from her job as a lawyer for McAngus, Goudelock & Courie and basically moved from their Myrtle Beach home to Charleston with Ellison for treatments at MUSC.

Duke, a broker in charge for a real estate company, took full charge of sons, Jackson and Carson, now ages 8 and 7.

“It was hard to be together one day and then, all of sudden, you’re not living under the same roof. Our world was turned upside down,” says Ashley.

But their luck soon started to change for the better.

Ellison responded well to chemotherapy, going into remission after the first of three treatments and basically didn’t suffer many side effects typically associated with chemo, the family says.

And a test of the family for a bone marrow transplant found that Carson was a perfect match.

“We were excited, but then I worried. We have a perfectly healthy 6-year-old who was being to asked to help. But he was unbelievable. If it had been my older son, he’s deathly afraid of needles and doctors. But Carson is really laid back and doesn’t get freaked out. I just think God just knew. “

On Oct. 11, 2011, Carson gave his marrow and his baby sister got not only a new lease on life, but his blood type: from O to A negative.

Duke and Ashley Melton will be special guests at Saturday’s Beach Blast 2013, presented by the MUSC Craniofacial Anomalies & Cleft Lip/Palate Team.

With remission, treatments for Ellison’s cleft lip and palate could resume, and will continue throughout her development into adulthood.

“She’ll have a million-dollar smile by the time it’s all over,” says Ashley, who is still on leave from her law job.

And while Ellison likely will continue to see craniofacial doctors for the next 20 years, she’ll be monitored by cancer doctors for the next 30.

Ashley says the whole experience taught her a major lesson in life.

“When we got the diagnosis of cleft lip and palate, we thought, ‘God, why did you do this. She’s a girl.’ I felt like He was saying you need to get over this because it’s vain. When the leukemia diagnosis came, the cleft issue went away. I felt like God was saying this is the bigger picture.”

Still, after having endured a proverbial “double-whammy” of health issues with Ellison, Ashley adds, “I don’t need any more whammies.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.