Friday, March 16, 2012


Another bright light has been extinguished by breast cancer.

MARY (aka MBJ on BCO) has died.

Doctors gave her four months. She was gone in six weeks. Her passing has left the online breast cancer community at a loss for words.

Cancer is some scary sh*t.

I feel a need to honor this lovely woman who was so generous in spirit and insight; who always had a kind word to spare no matter where you found yourself on the breast cancer path; who so readily shared her own pain in the hopes that it might help others. And she helped so many others.

Mary was just two years out from her initial breast cancer diagnosis when she developed constant shoulder and arm pain. Several doctors told her she had a frozen shoulder; another said she had nerve damage. Mary herself suspected that maybe she tore a muscle or ligament. She received cortisone shots and some physical therapy, but the pain never went away.

Mary was also uninsured. She waited months for an MRI appointment (which, ironically, is tomorrow). When she was finally (correctly) diagnosed in early February (yes, just last month), doctors sent her home with hospice. She died six weeks later. She never had a chance.

But you do.

If there is a lesson in this loss (and dare I say this may well be Mary's legacy), it is this: If you have nagging pain, get it checked out. Now. Doesn't matter if you have cancer or are just afraid you might. Our bodies are very wise. They talk to us all the time; but we don't always listen. And even when we do, sometimes the medical profession doesn't. Sometimes, they get it all wrong. Like they did with Mary.

How can we honor her life? By listening to our bodies, speaking out on behalf of our discomfort, and not taking no (or "I don't know") for an answer.

And listen to your gut. If what you are hearing from a health care professional doesn't sit well with you, keep shopping — until you hear something that does.

R.I.P. Mary. (To hear her lovely singing voice, visit the website her husband created for her here.)


  1. Oh Renn,

    I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend Mary. I'm sorry she was uninsured. This is a sad, sad story. This last month and a half have been sad ones for sure.

  2. Thanks Beth. She is actually the 3rd loss on BCO just this week. Scary stuff.

  3. I feel devastated by yet another one of us taken by this horrible disease...

  4. im so sorry renn...sending love to you and this entire community

  5. What a beautiful tribute, a way of finding the lesson in the loss. A fitting tribute.

  6. Renn, I am so sad. She is the first woman I "knew" on BCO that I have corresponded with since last July that has died. It has really shaken me and my eyes were so swollen on Friday, everyone at work got to hear about Mary. Thank you for your words and picture of Mary. And the reminder to trust our gut. Our bodies do know. We need to listen. (((hugs))) Lindsey

  7. Lindsey, I'm so sorry. I know you and MBJ were on one of the very active threads together so I knew this news had affected you.

    Be gentle to yourself, keep looking forward and take it a day at a time. It is all any of us can do. ;-)


  8. Renn, I am so sorry about Mary. These losses just keep on piling up. And the fact she was uninsured and didn't get timely answers just makes it even more distressing. I'm really sorry. Thank you for this post and for your very sound advice.

  9. Renn, how sad this story. Those who are uninsured get the shaft over and over. And we do need to listen to our bodies. I tried not going to the ER last June when I had chest pains at 2 am. But my brain told me I needed to go, despite the deductible and the co-pays and incidential fees, despite underwriters later seeing this and denying me good individual insurance coverage. All those voices were drowned out by my inner voice that screamed, "Have this checked out!" And I'm glad I did. While it wasn't cancer, it could have been. Thanks for gifting us with this beautiful tribute to Mary. XOXO

  10. @Nancy, yes, distressing is a good word. By sharing Mary's story, someone will be motivated to get their pain checked out. I am sure of it.

    @Jan: You did the right thing, the thing we all need to continue to do: Face the fear and find out. It's not easy; it's not fun. But it's what Mary would tell you to do.

  11. yes, I totally agree with you on listening. When I had my cancer recurrence last June I never once thought cancer. I thought I was constipated or had a blockage. And again, this past February, I suffered for 3 days before going to the hospital to find out that time it Was a blockage. Cancer leaves us damaged to the point that small things become big things. We only have this one body, we have to listen.

  12. SJN: You are so right: We only have this one body, we have to listen. I am glad you listened to yours.

    Pre-cancer, I thought time healed all aches and pains. I know better now.


  13. Renn,

    A lovely tribute to Mary..... May your words empower us all to listen to our bodies.


  14. I can't stop thinking about Mary and I didn't know her ...but read about her on after her death and maybe thats exactly what Mary wants... for US "newbie's" to push her story forward. To latch on to the lesson and not only learn but empower ourselves and others.

    Renn, what you wrote for Mary was lovely. thank you for sharing your heart.

  15. Green Monkey, yes, I believe Mary would want us to continue to "latch onto the lesson" and learn and empower others.

    That is exactly what she did for all of us.

  16. Great post, Renn. I plan to republish it on Tuesday 10 April at Being Cancer Network. I will include links to your site so you should see an increase in traffic. Keep up the great work.
    Take care, Dennis

  17. Thank you Dennis. That is very kind of you!


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