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Mary Eyler

Mary Eyler was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2020 just one week after her oldest son’s wedding.  For the previous couple of years she had been putting off mammograms because of her demanding job and hectic family schedule.  When Mary was diagnosed she was frightened and didn’t know where to turn for advice and how to jumpstart the surgery and treatment process which caused her huge levels of stress and anxiety.

Now, having made a full recovery, Mary looks back on her early days of being diagnosed with cancer and wishes that she had known sooner about the support and mentoring opportunities that Network of Hope offers those who are recently diagnosed with cancer.  This is why Mary actively supports and urges others to support The Network of Hope (which falls under the umbrella of the Northside Hospital Foundation) where mentors and support opportunities are given to new cancer patients.

Below is a short question and answer with Mary describing her story: 

Before you were diagnosed, did you have any family or friends that battled breast or any other kind of cancer?

Prior to my diagnosis, my mother endured lung, stomach and pancreatic cancer. She was initially given one month to put her affairs in order. After a second opinion she underwent radical surgery and with persistent health checks survived 17 additional years. My mother loved living. She was the strongest person I've ever known. She was a tobacco farmer and came from a long line of people that endured hard things. She was the ultimate fighter. I could not have asked for a better example of strength and resilience going into my diagnosis.

I understand that your hectic schedule interfered with your ability to get consistent mammograms. Can you tell us a little bit about what your daily schedule was like and why you decided to eventually get checked?

In the years leading up to my diagnosis I fell into a flurry of work, family, life obligations AND Covid coping. It was taking all of my time. I carved out little to no time for my own wellbeing and stress was taking its toll. As a result, I put off doctor appointments, not to mention mammograms, thinking I was a person that was generally healthy with exercise and eating habits. But honestly, even keeping up with exercise and healthy habits had become a stressor on top of everything else. I promised myself that after my son's wedding In October 2020 I would start making up for lost time. I scheduled a mammogram as well as other routine doctor visits to start a new chapter of self-care. God had a plan to solidify that decision in a major way. I went to that mammogram with no idea that I would be forced to prioritize my health from that moment forward.

How did you feel when you were diagnosed and how did the news your life?

I remember being called back multiple times for further testing before finally getting the call that I did indeed have cancer. I was in shock. I went numb. I thanked the radiologist for calling and went shopping at Target like nothing had happened. It was only when I was walking down the hall to see my surgeon for the first time that the panic hit me. I couldn't move fast enough to get it out of my body no matter what that took. After that, I was determined to face it head on with no fear and do what I had to do and put it all behind me.

Mary and the Eyler family

Can you talk about your treatment and recovery while at Northside Hospital?

The treatment I had at Northside made the process the best of a challenging situation. An A+ team was assembled for my surgery which gave me the best start possible on my road to recovery. My daily radiation treatments were extremely efficient, and the staff was totally invested in my care and as well as mental wellness.

What would you tell others who might have trouble finding time out of their hectic schedules to get a mammogram?

Mary and her youngest son, Knox

Life can be overwhelmingly hectic and busy. Before my diagnosis I would hear people talking about their hobbies and bucket lists. I came to realize I had not considered those things that make life richer and more meaningful! Cancer made me stop the madness, slow down and think about, if I have this one chance at life, what do I want to do with that gift? I cannot stress enough the importance of staying on top of your regular mammograms. With early detection you give yourself and those you love the best chance possible of the gift of your long life!

What has inspired your passion for supporting the Network of Hope within the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute?

Being diagnosed with cancer brings out different emotions in each person it effects. For me, I wanted to kick its butt and move on like nothing had happened. I didn't talk about or share it with many people for fear of being labeled and looked at differently by others. It was only after my recovery that I was invited to participate in a fashion show fundraiser for Network of Hope and Northside Cancer Institute. After the fashion show I was leaving the building and a woman approached me with tears in her eyes. She had just been diagnosed and was so very scared. She had heard my story and was coming to me to help calm her fears. It was at that moment that I turned a corner and became proud of my cancer journey. Instead of keeping it in the dark, I realized God blessed me with an opportunity to help others through the uncertainty and pain of one of the most defining moments of their life. Network of Hope gave me purpose - to show others you can make it to the other side and THRIVE!