Tell us about yourself.
Although I retired from my full time job as a school library media specialist and sometimes high school English teacher, I am now working part time with Wallace Community College's Adult Ed Program. It's a wonderful job, as I love to help people learn, and I love that my weekend usually begins on Tuesday.
My hobbies include my four grandchildren, traveling, reading, sports (particularly Alabama Football) and volunteering.
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed right before Christmas in December 2001. I thought that was very poor timing but later came to recognize it as one of my greatest Christmas gifts, for although my tumor was large, I had immediate cutting-edge, top-notch medical care, and now every Christmas I celebrate being alive!
How has cancer changed your outlook on life?
Cancer is a dreadful disease, but it certainly does have a way of getting one to focus on what's really important. I have told so many people that it's almost worth going through the diagnosis and treatments just to find out how wonderful people really are and to experience the many ways not just friends and family but total strangers reached out to me and my family. Prior to this, I'd thought I'd really done "my part" for a sick friend or relative by selecting a nice get-well card and sending it. Thank goodness others were far more generous and creative with their time and talents! I learned the value of someone dropping by for tea and bringing the tea and teacups; of a stranger working at the cosmetic counter in a very upscale department store learning of my eyelash-less problem, and insisting on giving me a new product to build up the two or three lashes I had left, saying, "We're allowed to do this"; and of friends from hundreds of miles away taking time to drive to Birmingham to be with me during chemotherapy or doctor visits. The list just goes on and on. I guess the main point I want to make is that I didn't have to face breast cancer alone. And I learned that I, too, could make a difference in other cancer fighters' lives with just a little more effort on my part.
What words of encouragement would you share with others with cancer?
I'd say that there is no better time than now to be a fighter of breast cancer, for huge strides are being made constantly. A diagnosis is a starting point toward good health and better days ahead. I think I had the best medical care in the world—right here in Southern Living's back yard at UAB Medical Center. My surgeon (Dr. Kirby Bland, world renowned cancer surgeon from center of the universe, ABBEVILLE) and my team of doctors listened and allowed me to have input into the plans for my fight. As a former research librarian, this was very important for me.
Support this non-profit in honor of Maribeth:
Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, bcrfa.org
Please support those battling breast cancer by donating.