She is a survivor — and avid foe — of breast cancer.
She's also a veteran skydiver. Hers was the ingenuity that came up with “Jump For The Rose,” an idea that combined her love for skydiving with her passion to combat breast cancer. The two loves were forged into a truly unique Houston-area fundraising tool that now saves many lives.
She also is a proud Texan.
Now, Marian Sparks, 57, has become one of the faces of the national Susan G. Komen advertising campaign, titled “I am Susan G. Komen.”
Together with Alantheia Pena and Sonia Briseno, all survivors of breast cancer, these unique individuals share their stories to raise awareness.
Sparks was even recognized on stage at the Honoring the Promise Gala on Sept. 28 in Washington, D.C. held in the Eisenhower Theatre at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Having a Texan as a face of Susan Komen will go a long way toward helping others, said Chris Taylor, Executive Director of Cherokee County Public Health.
"I do believe that having a Texan serve in this capacity is significant," Taylor said. "One of the things that Public Health has to do is to tell its story. A few weeks ago, I heard a gentlemen say, 'you never see the fire marshal on the front page of the newspaper, you always see the firefighter.' How true that is."
In other words, Taylor said, telling a story and using a familiar face is always a helpful way for people to realize that breast cancer is not just a disease you hear about on the radio.
"It is something that odds are, you know someone personally who has struggled with it," he said, "As we say here in East Texas, 'it hits closer to home.' This frame of reference adds a real value to the story. It’s one of our own so to speak."
Peggy Renfro, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, agrees a Texan can help.
"I believe so," she said. "So many people I know have family members and friends fighting that ugly word — cancer! I believe the awareness and community support does show when someone locally is on the fight against cancer."
Friend and colleague Dorothy Gibbons 'looks' like, talks like, reflects all the images and trappings of the average middle age, successful women — yet her story surprises most.
"That fact alone will inspire women to tend to their health and have their mammograms plus affirm the importance of funding to those people who have the financial means to provide support," she said. "Her gifts from Jump for The Rose have already touched hundreds of lives, not just the women that had their mammogram covered by the funds she raised, but the families involved."
Gibbons said most often uninsured women will need more than a mammogram (ultrasound, physician breast exam, even biopsy) but they always hesitate taking that first step due to cost of the mammogram and stress about what will happen to them if cancer is found.
"Marian's work and funding have addressed both those issues," Gibbons said. "She's given the dollars we need to cover the cost of the mammogram and given her story to assure women there is help if needed."
Sparks learned she had breast cancer awhile back during one of the free breast cancer screenings that the American Cancer Society allotted to San Jacinto Hospital.
Sparks, from Baytown, had no insurance to pay for an operation. She didn't even know if she was going to survive the ordeal.
She was referred to The Rose, a center dedicated to helping Greater Houston area women survive breast cancer regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. It has saved the lives of over 9,000 women.
Dr. Dixie Melillo examined her and told her she needed lumpectomy surgery.
Melillo's strength and compassion shone through to Sparks. The doctor was very frank about Spark's condition. But she also offered hope — and to be Sparks’ surgeon. She explained that having no insurance was not a problem, that The Rose had been created to help women with financial problems.
The doctor is a legend in the Greater Houston area and beyond. She helps her patients find the strength and the financing to survive, Sparks said. Dr. Melillo offers breast cancer screening and diagnosis to more than 50,000 Texas women through the nonprofit The Rose.
Sparks decided to help the cause in her own unique way. And as a skydive, everything seemed to fall into place to raise money to fight breast cancer and create Jump For The Rose.
Hers is the well-advertised, national face of recovery
She is a survivor — and avid foe — of breast cancer.
Spelling bee rallies community for Literacy Council
How do you spell "oops?"Continued ...
Good thing a little misstep by judges at the 19th annual Jacksonville Literacy Council's Corporate Spelling Bee Wednesday didn't change the ultimate outcome of the event.
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