On June 16, 2011, during Marilynn's routine mammogram, her doctors detected a spot. After research, it was decided that she would need a lumpectomy. On July 27, a port was installed and on August 3, she began her chemotherapy treatments.
Many of these dates had always meant something much different to her. She always scheduled her mammogram on her birthday, the date of her lumpectomy was her nephew's birthday, her chemotherapy began on her father's birthday and the treatments ended on her parent's anniversary, November 8. Now when she thinks about those dates, she not only remembers the birthdays and anniversary that they mark, but also remembers the trials she faced while fighting her cancer.
On December 5, she began six weeks of radiation.
During her diagnosis and treatment, Marilynn says she never once cried, but the final day of her chemotherapy, she cried throughout the entire treatment- no longer from being scared or sad, but from relief. On her last day of radiation, she laughed.
"I kept my emotions in check during [treatment]. It was just too new."
Marilynn's treatments were 66 miles away in Cape Girardeau. Most days her husband Jim drove her from their family farm in Risco. Even her mother played an active role in Marilynn's support group, choosing to temporarily relocate from her Louisiana home to assist Marilynn. Her friends and church family were also a great support. Her daughter and even her grandchildren helped her make several major transitions.
"We decided we should tell the kids right away," she explained. "When adults start whispering, kids get scared." Her grandkids immediately encouraged their grandmother.
Marilynn said that she had decided that when she began to loose her hair, she was going to cut it all off. When that day came, sooner than Marilynn expected, she asked her grandson Dason if wanted to buzz her hair. He eagerly agreed and volunteered to buzz his own also. His grandma tried to discourage this action, but he was determined to show his support to her and responded, "If we are buzzing yours, then we are buzzing mine." And so they did.
Marilynn's granddaughter Grace helped in her own way. She and her grandmother made a special shopping trip and picked out the perfect wig for the occasion.
Marilynn's church family at Pleasant View General Baptist Church in Risco also helped to encourage her. Many who fight cancer have plastic bracelets made for themselves and others to wear showing support for the one battling the disease. But for Marilynn, those bracelets were much more- she considered them prayer bracelets and had a specific design in mind. She chose butterflies to be on one side and the cancer ribbon on the other.
She also had a specific saying she wanted on the bracelets- "In God's Grip."
"To be in His hand is one thing, but to be in His grip is a whole different picture to me," she pointed out. She further explained that the saying was also something she had to live up to.
"I had to act like I believed I was in God's grip."
She also wanted those bracelets to be a reminder to anyone wearing them to not only pray for her, but for any other cancer victims and cancer research.
"People that didn't know us were praying," she said. "Knowing they were praying really strengthened me."
After her final radiation treatment, she and her church family held a retirement service for those bracelets.
Marilynn was also nearly overwhelmed by the level of support she received from many different directions.
"I don't think anybody could have ever had a better support group than what I had." She continued to explain that at any given time, there were at least a dozen people she could call on to help her.
She explained that her husband was a strong support.
"He had it just as hard as I did. He was as strong as I knew he would be." She continued to state that he was very understanding and that did not surprise her at all.
"He was wonderful and a great support. That's just the kind of man he is."
Marilynn underwent her treatments at Southeast Cancer Center in Cape Girardeau. She explained that throughout the entire ordeal, not one person spoke negatively about her condition and all her medical personell were encouraging and uplifting. The American Cancer Society also provided a mentor who cheered her on.