Amazing Woman: Mary Roberts

There’s just something about Mary.

Not only is she a 20-year cancer warrior, with 11 reoccurrences under her belt, and Challenged Athletes Foundation cyclist (riding over 1,000 miles and raising thousands of dollars for the Foundation)—as Sr. Marketing Manager and all-around Amazing Woman, she is an inspiration to all of us who proudly call her a colleague and friend.

We caught up with Mary for a chat about what it was like to get her first diagnosis at the age of 17, fighting cancer with humor, and the Amazing Women in her life who have stood by her side throughout the years.

How did you begin to process your first cancer diagnosis at 17? 

It was tough to get the diagnosis and news that I would lose my leg, but to be honest, I was more traumatized about losing my hair! I think it had a lot to do with my age. After I got through the initial shock, my only request was to get a prosthetic that enabled me to paint my toes. I don’t think they had many teenage girls coming through their office…

You’re an incredible warrior-survivor in your own right. So we have to ask: Who is an Amazing Woman in your life? 

My mom is my rock. She has been instrumental in my recovery and journey. Through any surgery, she is there with me every step of the way, nursing me back to health. That’s just kind of how my mom is: she is a giver and a provider. My family has had some medical issues and tragedies, and she’s become our family nurse. She will do whatever it takes to get us better.

She keeps on keeping on, and leaves me no choice but to do the same.

 

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When you’re at your lowest, is there a mantra or a prayer that uplifts you? 

Yes, and these words to live by come from somebody in my life who I consider to be my second mom. I remember her just looking at me straight-faced soon after my initial diagnosis and she asked me, “Mary, how do you eat an elephant?”

I told her I had no idea. And then she told me, “You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and that’s what you’re going to do with this diagnosis. You’re going to take it one day at a time, and we’re going to get through it.”

Any time I’ve had a cancer reoccurrence, I just go back to this saying and I tell myself that I’ll tackle it one chunk at a time, and that somehow it will be OK.

What are some of the places that you’ve been to that have inspired you?

Riding the coast of California has really inspired me; not only is it beautiful, but it gives you such challenging terrain. I also got a chance to travel to Kenya and Burundi in Africa. While in Kenya, I visited several orphanages run by a friend, which exposed me to the most beautiful, uplifting kids. It was a life-changing, humbling experience for me to be around them.

Speaking of life-changing experiences–when did your perspective about cancer change? 

There was a young lady I met a few years ago, she was nine years old at the time. She and her dad were guest speakers at the Challenged Athlete Foundation. I heard her speak after a long day of riding and was floored by how similar our stories were. Like me, she had a sarcoma in her leg. She was also focused on a singular sport (soccer, whereas I was a basketball player) and had an injury that wouldn’t go away until she couldn’t walk anymore. The “injury” turned out to be a tumor in her leg.

Sitting in the crowd and hearing her story was a turning point; it enabled me to truly grow from my own experiences [with cancer] by opening me up to the idea of using my disease as a way to connect more with my friends, to share more of myself with other people, instead of contracting. Before, I used to hide my prosthetic and wear long pants or skirts because I didn’t want to talk about it. But after hearing this little girl speak, something shifted.

Getting involved in cycling also changed me. I found the sport as an adult after my amputation, and riding has given me a huge boost of confidence that was somewhat lost after I was diagnosed.

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How do Amazing Women support other Amazing Women, especially when they are cancer survivors or going through something difficult, like cancer? 

I’ve always appreciated my friends and family keeping things normal. Of course, it’s nice to get that special treatment sometimes, but on a day-to-day basis, I just want things to stay normal because on my end, I am trying my best to normalize days that are often filled with doctors appointments, blood draws and chemotherapy.

Also, humor is the best medicine! During this last reoccurrence, I finally gave my tumor a name, “Betsy.” My friends and I had a lot of fun talking about Betsy and her eviction from my body. The laughter Betsy gave us turned the tumor into something else and gave it a kind of life outside of this looming cancer that was invading my body.

We even made Betsy bracelets and burned each one as a way to say good riddance. It was so satisfying.

What do you do for self-care? 

The best self-care is getting on the bike, which is easier said than done sometimes. There’s also mani-pedis and the occasional massage. I also love the occasional retail therapy, of course.

We’re donating 10% of our Jewelry sales to the American Cancer Society throughout the month of May. Do you have any personal jewelry favorites from our recent collection? 

I love a great hoop earring, and I’m really into these Large Gold Hoops. Lately, rose gold pieces are on heavy rotation in my jewelry lineup. I also love pairing these Tassel Earrings with a plain white tee or tank top now that the weather’s getting a little warmer.

We’ve partnered with the American Cancer Society to celebrate survivors. See below for more details and enter for a chance to win a $2,500 shopping spree for you and a $2,500 shopping spree for an Amazing Woman in your life!

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16 Comments

  • Brandi M

    How wonderful it is to hear you were able to see the humor in your situation. I understand it must have been difficult for you to learn all of this at a young age. My mother is my rock, shes been there through so much for my family and I.
    I also volunteer for CAF and currently am in school to be a certified Ortho-Prosthetist. There aren’t many women in the field so I feel its very important for women to step up and take care of one another! Love what you’re doing- keep it up :)

  • Al Sandmann

    Mary,
    Your strength, determination, and perseverance is an inspiration for all of us. You have set a high standard for others to follow.
    Love you,
    Al

  • Ann Sandmann

    You have always been a handful. You walked at seven months old and have been on the go since. This has shown through in your walk with cancer. You have never let it get you down. Just remember that God has his hand on you and he will never let go!

  • lucinda

    Yes..to all of the above to you Mary & your amazing Mom.. I have never had cancer,have friends that have & you all are such warriors,& inspiring..I wish you all could have the best of all & you all should “win”this contest. Much Love & affection to you all! Lucinda xo

  • Debbie Harris

    What an inspirational story. I’m at a point where I have Dr. Check ups every three months for the next two years. 2016 was filled with chemo and radiation after having surgery needed for advanced uterine cancer. I now find myself encouraging people that have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. Keep up the good work God bless.

  • Vicky

    I appreciate your story more than you know. I am triple negative. The pill that 85% of breast cancer pt can take for prevention,we can not. There is no after chemo plan except to see your doctor regularly. I was so afraid. I remember twice a month on the best day..( before chemo) we would go to the movie. All the previews made me wonder if I would be here to see them. Chemo does come to an end…….my matra was……. it is amazing what you can do when you don’t have a choice. I would do this, because I didn’t have a choice .I wanted to live.
    And I AM HERE…. a survivor… I don’t worry about the previews anymore. I decided if I could do chemo…I could decide to be well…..lol I will share and remember your elephant. Hugs
    Thank you World Market for your support.
    Vicky

  • Patricia Echeverria

    I totally love your story in 4 days it will be my 2nd birthday .. cancer free it was a challenge but it only makes us stronger

  • Christina Rudiger

    Mary,
    Thank you for sharing your story! I am a 20 month breast cancer survivor. I have greatly benefitted from some Amazing Women and their journeys. I strive to help others who battle cancer and other illnesses. I am also a high school volleyball and track coach and shared my journey with my athletes. I had the greatest support from my spouse, mother, co-workers and student-athletes. I admire your strength and perseverence and appreciate you sharing! Praying for continued blessings for you and yours.

  • Peggy

    I am a surviving of 27 yrs now from breast cancer.I thought your story was just very touching.You are one strong elephant girl…keep the faith.My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Hope

    I survived Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (sarcoma) in my leg when I was 20. Then breast cancer in both breasts at 40. I turn 50 this May with no reoccurrences of any tumors so far. I got to keep my leg so happy. I had to have double mastectomies but I have survived. I liked hearing your inspirational story. Good luck in your future. You are a brave soul.

  • Wendy

    way to go! I’m a survivor at 26years this October.

  • Melody Schmidt

    Mary … WOW!! I just keep shaking my head saying WOW and thanking the LORD for giving you such strength, encouragement, joy, love, determination, and renewed health and healing!!! I shall add my prayers to the others that surround your life. I will never forget reading your story … Blessings, Melody

  • Beth Moses

    May the God be your strength always.Thats so inspiring of you.such a blessing.

  • Adriane Gillin Jack

    You have always been an inspiration to me! Your attitude that you had while going through something so tough was encouraging. It has been amazing watching you through the years do the things you do. You haven’t let it keep you down. Keep doing you!

  • Linda DeMent

    Well Mary, I hv kept a silent, prayerful, quiet role during your last events with cancer but you know how much energy I put into your health and cheer all of your accomplishments. I’m so proud of how you conduct yourself concerning any challenges that have been placed on your shoulders. I love you so much. Remember the way to eat an elephant always! Your second Mama. Linda.

  • Pauline Mwangi

    Soooo, proud of you Mary. You are a hero. A great encouragement to many. Much love from Kenya.

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