Former Cancer Patient Gives Back to Support Others During the Holidays
Mary Blue arrived at the chemo clinic toting a large pile of gifts for a family going through what hers did 20 years ago: coping with cancer over the holidays.
Back in 1998, Mary was a special education teacher in the Belleville schools. She and her husband, Wayne, had two children, Sam and Katie, who were still in high school.
She wasn't particularly surprised to get the diagnosis of stage 3 colon cancer on Nov. 30 that year.
"It runs in my family, my mother had it and so did my grandmother," she says, and in fact, her first thought was to get her lesson plans done because she'd need to miss school for the surgery.
After surgery, she had chemotherapy and participated in a clinical trial aimed at reducing the length of treatment.
"My kids were asking if we should celebrate the 20th anniversary," Mary says. "We talked about going out to eat with the extended family. But then I thought the money might be better spent helping someone who is going through what we went through. Twenty years ago we received amazing help, support and encouragement from family, friends, co-workers and church family."
"I felt it was fitting we honor this 20-year milestone by giving a little support to a family who also is facing the challenges of cancer."
Kendra O'Connell, the cancer clinics manager, and the UW Carbone Cancer Center social work team, knew of a family that was having an especially tough year. The three school-aged children had lost their father to cancer earlier this year, and their mother was undergoing treatment for her own cancer.
Mary says her family divided up the shopping duties. She and her best friend Sue Baier shopped for the mom and teenage daughter. Her daughter Katie and daughter-in-law Caitlin shopped for the littlest girl. And her husband, son, and son-in-law Mark Hagen were excited to know that the family's son was involved in Boy Scouts.
"My husband and son have been very involved in Scouts since Sam was a Cub Scout. Sam remained active in Scout camp through college," Mary says. "Mark is an avid hunter and fisherman. Yes, they did have fun deciding what (the son) might need for Scout camping. This was right up their alley!"
Mary says the shopping spree was a fun way to pay forward all the help her own family received.
The mom of the family is just a few years younger than Mary was during her own diagnosis.
"In my 20 years as a survivor, I have seen both of my children graduate from high school and college, find the loves of their lives and get married, and find careers they enjoy. Last summer the first grandchild was added to our family, and early next year we will welcome the second! Life just does not get any better! That is what we wish for this mother and her family – to, in time, heal physically and emotionally, and find contentment and happiness in life."
Date Published: 12/14/2018