Trusting Your Gut: How One Mom's Intuition Saved the Day | PCOM
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A Mother’s Love, A Daughter’s Purpose

October 18, 2023

Karli Meller and her motherCall it a gut instinct or a mother’s intuition. In the fall of 2012, Suzie Meller couldn’t shake the feeling that her daughter Karli Meller (DO ’26) was suffering.

“In my heart, I knew something was wrong,” Suzie shared.

During her first trip to the pediatrician’s office, Karli was diagnosed with a common chest cold. On the second visit, she was told her backpack was putting too much of a strain on her chest. Never much of a complainer, Karli’s pain got so bad that she was almost unable to sit up on her own.

“It was the most rapidly progressing thing I’ve ever gone through,” Karli explained. “It started getting worse and worse every single day.”

After several trips to the pediatrician with no answers, Suzie demanded imaging. The results confirmed her worst fear. Karli had cancer.

Karli Meller during cancer treatment as a child“I will never forget that day,” Suzie said.

As the words left the doctor’s lips, Suzie could only feel her own pain.

For Karli, a seemingly normal afternoon changed her life forever.

“It was a Tuesday,” Karli said. “I was in the middle of a math test when my teacher said my mom was there. I met her in the lobby and she just had that look on her face.”

Karli describes life from that point on as a whirlwind.

She first received apologies from the pediatrician who misdiagnosed her and then immediately went to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to begin a week-long stay for additional testing. After a biopsy, her diagnosis was confirmed as Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

“We laid in bed that night and Karli asked me if she was going to die,” said Suzie. “There are no words for the sadness, fear, and pain we experienced.”

Pain caused by the repeated dismissal of Karli’s symptoms by doctors.

“I remember being accurate in describing how I was feeling,” she said. “I felt my symptoms were downplayed because I was just 13 years old.”

Finally on track and getting the help she needed, Karli said the months flew by with the support of family and friends. Diagnosed with cancer in October, Karli was cancer-free the following February.

She attributes her current path to the care she received.

“My life’s purpose is to give back to the cancer community,” she said.

“I feel it’s common for doctors to confine you to a textbook definition of what they see every day. In the pediatrician’s office, I was the one zebra when they usually saw horses. It made me really sensitive to the fact that people are affected by different illnesses.”

Karli Meller (DO ’26) poses in her medical student white coat next to a pillar with the PCOM crestKarli’s feelings on how people should be medically treated align with PCOM’s approach to teaching medicine.

“Something I love about PCOM is how they train you to be thorough and look at each person as an individual,” she shared. “It’s helping us learn to keep our minds open to things that aren’t so common or familiar.”

Suzie feels nothing but pride for her daughter, as she’s able to witness Karli live a life that wasn’t promised back in 2012.

“When I look at her, I see a strong, gracious, determined, and compassionate woman who fought a very difficult battle at a young age,” Suzie said.

“My heart is so full. I know how much good she is going to do in this world.”

If you would’ve told her when she was first diagnosed that she was going to be okay, Karli says she would’ve thought you were crazy. Now, she sees the beauty in appreciating the small things in life while fighting the big ones.

“Having a positive attitude is so important in life because it helps you get through the challenges,” she explains.

“That whole experience shaped who I am and gave me direction. I would never take it back because that’s why I’m here.”

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    For the past 125 years, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution of higher education, operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and school psychology. The college also offers graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, physician assistant studies, and school psychology. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit or call 215-871-6100.

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