FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio — Melissa Wilson knows all too well how to smile through the pain.
“I sat and I saw my kids’ dad die,” she said.
In 2018 her husband passed away. It’s a heartache that subsided a bit with the help of friends.
“When their father passed away a lot of the neighbors knew about it and everyone reached out and really helped us get through the last four years,” said Wilson.
But there was one neighbor, in her Fairview Park apartment complex, who was there through it all: Malika Kopp.
“She was just calling and checking and making sure you’re ok because a lot of people don’t call and check-in that you’re ok, and it’s very important to have that connection with somebody,” said Wilson. “It built a very strong friendship.”
Over the years, the two women’s friendship grew.
“She’s family. She always gives and gives to everybody and she’s never taken time for herself,” she said. “She’s the most inspirational, positive person. She’ll take any situation and make it positive.”
But now, Kopp has to take time for herself. For the past two years, she’s been battling an aggressive form of vaginal cancer. It’s a fight she’s been waging that she only let a few people, including Wilson, know about.
“To be honest, this is my third cancer,” said Kopp. “But this cancer has been rough, and I know that I hid it from a lot of people because I'm not a complainer.”
The 58-year old mother and grandmother smiled throughout the pain, and never stopped working odds and ends to pay for rent and other expenses.
“Either you cry about it, or you do the best thing you can,” she said. “Unfortunately, it's been a rough one and it went sideways.”
She recently developed a side effect to radiation.
“I developed a thing called severe radiation colitis. It’s like you burn like a blister than a sore, it’s like burning from the inside, out,” she said. “It got worse and worse where I couldn’t even stand, sleep, sit down.”
Wilson knew it was time to step in.
“I kept thinking there’s something more that I can do. There’s something more I can do. There’s good people out there,” she said.
So, Wilson took to social media and started a GoFundMe page for Kopp.
“The hardest thing someone has to do is ask for help. But this woman needs a good three months to rest otherwise she’s not going to get better,” she said.
She is hoping to raise money for Kopp’s rent and basic necessities so, like her doctor’s want, she can have time to heal.
Kopp said she was surprised when she saw the page and well wishes from strangers.
“I keep to myself. So, you know, that's why I'm totally in shock. How kind, what she did. It's overwhelming,” said Kopp. “Oh, I'm so lucky to be her neighbor. It's very rare. People you don’t expect, but you get, you know? I’m saying, just genuine all the way around, just kind all the way around.”
A kind gesture that Wilson said she’s always received from her neighbor, turned best friend.
“Thats’ what we are here for. We are supposed to help each other, we are supposed to help each other get through the hard times,” she said.
And getting through this hard time is exactly what Kopp plans to do.
“I want to heal for me and for everybody who supported me,” she said.