Ellie Maricle: Mom’s Cancer Experience with Mayo Clinic Compelled Me to Give Back
I wanted to do something unique for my high school senior project in Windom, Minnesota.
So when it came time to brainstorming ideas, I knew right away I wanted to give back to Mayo Clinic.
The Eagle Achievement Project pushes us to make a difference within our community. My decision was rooted in what happened on June 7, 2019. It's the day that changed our family's life.
My mom, Kristi, had been having health issues when our family doctor ordered a colonoscopy, and then a biopsy after a large mass was discovered. The results concluded our worst fears — Mom had cancer.
Immediately, she decided she wanted to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, two hours east of my small town in southwest Minnesota.
Before long, we had all memorized the roads to Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
I remember feeling everything would be OK. We had the support of so many people in our tight-knit community and at Mayo Clinic who truly cared about my mom getting better. Beyond our friends and family, I think of all the physicians, nurses and other care providers — including Joleen Hubbard, M.D., Chris Hallemeier, M.D., and Eric Dozois, M.D. — when I think about my mom's cancer journey.
It started when Dr. Hubbard, Mom's oncologist, and the team created a plan that began with chemotherapy. Sitting in the room with people getting chemotherapy, like my mom, wasn't easy, but the room was always full of uplifting smiles from both the patients and the doctors.
Things didn't go as planned for Mom. During her sixth round of chemotherapy, she became ill enough to require hospitalization. During her stay, CT scans and an MRI found the tumor wasn't shrinking — instead, it had grown.
A Quick Response
As a family, we were devastated.
But every doctor and care provider took the time to explain what they were doing and why before they took action. Observing the doctors, radiologists and nurses effectively communicate the new test results and then alter the care plan for my mom immediately was uplifting and inspiring.
After chemotherapy, my mom had radiation daily for 5½ weeks. Dr. Hallemeier and the radiation therapists were personable, supportive, patient and empathetic toward my mom and our family.
I will not forget my mom's excitement when she heard from her entire team that the tumor had shrunk and the cancer had not spread further.
Next came surgery, which was the scariest part of the whole journey for me. We waited 14 hours, hoping and praying. I will always remember the feeling of anticipation I felt in the waiting room.
Finally, mom's surgeon, Dr. Dozois, delivered fantastic news — they had completely removed the grapefruit-sized tumor and there were no complications. Mom was on the road to recovery.
Following my mom's successful care, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my senior project that was different from the other people in my class. I came up with the idea of May Day baskets. The baskets, a traditional sign of spring in the Midwest, are filled with treats and other small gifts to friends, family and neighbors. In mine, I also included information about colorectal cancer.
Windom is 20 times smaller than Rochester by population, and I thought I'd sell maybe 25 or 30 baskets. After advertising the gifts on social media, I was blown away by the community's support. In 10 days, I sold more than 130 baskets.
I cannot sufficiently express the amount of gratitude my family has for the support and love we received. I am honored to give to Mayo Clinic on behalf of my family and the entire Windom community to help continue the fight against cancer and ultimately find a cure.
Eds Note: The individual featured in images was alone following social distancing guidelines, and in compliance with Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 safety guidelines while unmasked.