Honoring Mary – guest post

Renn just passed her first year anniversary as a breast cancer blogger.  In this post she honors a fellow traveler whose journey had recently comes to its end. Renn writes at The ‘Big C’ and Me


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.)



About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


Honoring Mary – guest post — 2 Comments

  1. Dennis, thank you for highlighting my post about Mary. I feel honored to honor her.

    And thank you for all the good work you do on this blog! You help a great many people.

  2. My name is Evan Bartlett, and I was diagnosed with Leukemia when I was 4 months old. I am now 20 years old. I bring this up only because I am currently working on a documentary called, Discovering The Beating Path. We will be embarking on a journey across the West July 1st- August 20th. Along the way we will stop at cancer camps, retreats, and support groups.

    I am sorry to hear that Mary passed away. I feel that every patient/ survivor story must be told. My crew and I are trying to promote our project as much as possible. I provided a couple links so you could get a better understanding:

    My Story:

    Donation Page:

    Please let me know if you are interested in helping us out. Feel free to ask any questions you may have.

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