I’m Marie. I’m a wife, mother, visual artist, and cancer survivor. I grew up in Appalachia with very humble roots. My parents used to have my older sister pay for my school lunch because I gave my money away every day to others and came home hungry if left to my own devices. Even at an early age, I loved the feeling of giving.
Three years ago, I was standing in my elementary art classroom when my doctor called to confirm my worst fear. He told me I had cancer. From that moment on, my life was sucked into what I call the “Cancer Planet”. Everything in my life stopped so I could travel to The Cleveland Clinic and complete treatment for an advanced stage of cervical cancer. It was a difficult time in my life. I felt like my identity was lost and replaced with a patient number. One day, I was feeling particularly sorry for myself when the doorbell rang and I was given a box containing hundreds of handmade cards from my art students and fellow teachers. The outpouring of love from these people took my breath away and gave me the strength to face countless days of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. It inspired me to give back as a cancer advocate and volunteer.
That simple act of love was enough to put wind back in my sails. I carry that memory close to my heart and am committed to fighting back against the negative in our world with positive energy and love. I do this in my daily interactions and take my responsibility to teach kindness to my children very seriously. Those little minds are the future and I want it to be beautiful for them. When we have a bad day, the first thing we do is figure out how we could go out and spread a little joy. It’s amazing how that ends up turning our own day around! This was also a centerpiece in my training for school counseling. Teaching students to combat negativity with acts of kindness gives them a sense of control.