Fighting the Good Fight

I love it when I get to introduce the special people in my life to my blog readers. And the guest writer I’m introducing today is one of the most special people in my life, Ryan Marchese. I ask you to welcome him, hear what he has to say, and search your hearts to see how it moves you to action.

I was nine years old when “cancer” was introduced into our home. It was more than just a word. It was fear. It was pain. It was a way of life. My mother didn’t tell me and my younger brother right away. She kept it to herself and to our grandparents. She was only 33 and the doctors were optimistic, so there was no point in putting her young children through so much worry. She had the tumor removed (Hodgkins Lymphoma) and began radiation treatment.

Being so young, I can’t remember too much of that earlier time, but I remember Mommy being sad and crying a lot. I remember Grandma and Grandpa spending more time with us, and my brother and I spending longer nights and weekends with our Dad (our parents had divorced several years earlier). Despite these oddities, everything seemed okay—until her oncologist found a second tumor. At this time, all bets were off. My brother and I finally learned the news and what all of the changes had meant.

It was a scary time. My memory isn’t crystal clear but the emotions all remain. It’s the little things that can dredge them back up. I remember Mommy meeting with my teacher after school while I sat at my desk and drew pictures. I can’t recall hearing them, but there were tears and concern. I remember hugs being exchanged; from everyone we knew really. Whenever we (my mother or my brother and I) were around, people got a little quieter, became more affectionate and compassionate. It was nice to have the support, but it always made me worry more.

There are also things I don’t remember, but my Mother is always happy to remind me about. When talking to her a few weeks ago, she reminded me about how I helped her when she was sick. After the second tumor, she was switched from radiation therapy to chemo. Anyone who has seen or experienced chemo knows the hell it puts your body through. But my brother and I were there to help. When Mommy was too sick to cook for us, I’d make dinner, make sure my brother and I had food and Mommy had some available if she could stomach it. Every day I’d ask “Did you remember to take your medicine, Mommy? Can I get you anything, Mommy? I brought your blanket, Mommy. I’m sorry you’re sick; please don’t be sad, Mommy.” Every time she reminds me of these things, I can’t help but cry all over again. I was her rock. Even at nine and ten years old, I was the man in her life that helped her keep it together. We made each other strong, and that time is part of the reason we are so close today. There’s no one in this world that I love more. And it doesn’t make me a “momma’s boy” or a “sissy” – it’s just hard not to strengthen bonds of love when you’re put through so much.

It was a long year, but finally we got through it. After two tumors, radiation, chemo and countless tears, my Mother was in remission. Everything was good again and we were out of the woods. The funny thing about feeling safe though, is it can make you forget the pain you went through to get to that safe place.

One night I got a call from my Mother, just one of our usually weekly check-ins. There was something in her voice though. Being so close, I can always tell when something is wrong. She held her tongue though, long enough to go through our usual chat. And then she said those words—the words I hadn’t heard since I was a little kid and had hoped I’d never hear again: “I went to the doctor this week and they found a lump. They ran some tests . . . and it’s breast cancer.”

I didn’t know what to say. We had come so far, but it wasn’t far enough. After a brief silence and a few tears, I mustered up the words we both needed. I told her that’s too bad, because I’m certainly not letting her go. We’d gone through this before and we’re going to do it again. Cancer tried and failed twice before, it was not going to take her away from me this time. That was my resolve and that became her resolve.

It has been a year and a half since I received that call. It took a handful of surgeries and a fair amount of worry, but my Mother is doing well. Things are definitely different now. For one, my Mother can now say she’s undergone a double mastectomy. I can say she is the bionic woman (there is a Kevlar mesh in her abdomen due to reconstruction). And our family can really say we’ve done it all. We are done, for the most part. All that’s left now is to fight. I’m no longer fighting to keep my Mother alive, she has proven time and time again that she is one tough broad and can handle that one. But now is my time to fight for others, for those that can’t help themselves.

This autumn I will be participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. For anyone that is not familiar, it is a fundraising event, similar to the Race for The Cure marathons or American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. What sets the 3-Day apart from these other events is the scale. This event spans three full days and has a walking course of 60 total miles. I have had friends participate, and I have always been happy to donate to cancer organizations and research, but I wanted to do something more.

This year is my time to give back. Unfortunately, I can’t do it alone. This event is a fundraiser, first and foremost. To be able to participate, there is a donation minimum that must be met. That is the reason I am writing this blog post – to gain support for the cause and my participation in it. This isn’t something that I want to do; this is something that I need to do. I need to help others and be a voice for those who are touched by this disease. My story is all too common, and my goal is to make stories like mine a distant memory. I want to be a voice for the children, families, and women with breast cancer. I want to stop the fear and tears of every person who has to hear the words “I have cancer. She has cancer. They have cancer.”

My deepest respect, appreciation and love go out to every person that has already supported me with a donation. And that gratitude will continue onto everyone else that will. Please consider making a donation to the cause and to my personal crusade. Every dollar donated goes toward breast cancer screening and research. Together we can stop this disease and put an end to living in fear of it.

Click here to support me!

One of the many, many reasons that Ryan is so special to me is that he was one of my strongest allies when my sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer last spring. He can’t even know how much it meant to me that when we got the news, he called and talked to me and listened to me for hours. He told me that it was going to be hard, but that it was going to be okay and that we weren’t going through it alone—and he made me believe it. And he was right. It was hard, but it was okay, and we weren’t alone for a minute. Ryan stepped up for me then and now, I’m stepping up for him and asking you guys to search your hearts and give. Through Ryan, we can make a real difference in the lives of some folks that really need someone to make a difference in their lives. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Kerri (Earringopia) says:

    Beautiful posting, Ryan, and thanks for sharing it with us via Sarah’s always great blog. I worked in case management for a year with breast cancer patients, and sadly several of my aunts and cousins have died from breast cancer. It was wonderful to read about your family’s support and love for your mom and her ultimately wonderful outcome. That’s a form of medicine that is needed as much as the other medical treatments if not more. Your bond will never be broken.

  2. Ryan Marchese says:

    Thank you so much for your supportive words and donation Kerri! It mean’s so much to me.

    And thank you Sarah for inviting me to post this on your blog, and supporting me during all of this.

  3. You brought tears to my eyes as I read this. Four years ago my father passed away from brain cancer. This week my father-in-law begins chemo for lung cancer.
    Seems cancer touches so many lives.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  4. Cindy Christian says:

    I am Ryan’s mom…. his heart felt words touch me so much, he has a way to make me cry, but its a good cry, tears of pride. My boys were so young and strong. All I wanted to do was keep them safe and make sure they understood that I was NOT going anywhere. As a mother, when you have to discuss possibilities dyeing with your small children, its tough, they really don’t understand. Their young minds ask, where will we live? what will happen to our toys…. ( in some ways those sweet little questions, ease your mind as a parent, because they don’t realize the possible hurt they might feel if something unforeseen were to happen)….The harder questions from them were, “if I hug you, can I catch it”… that one broke my heart, it showed me their fear… I simply explained, “No, you cant catch it.. think of it like a broken are… if my arm was broken, could you catch it?” they completely understood that analogy.

    Ryan I love you so much and you venturing to take on this challenge is amazing. I will be right there with you, as you and your brother were there for me so I didn’t have to go through my challenges alone, you will not be going through this alone!

  5. Oh good Lord but the tears are running at my desk. Ryan you are a mother’ dream. This was so beautiful and heartbreaking to read. Of course I will be supporting you in this.

  6. Ryan Marchese says:

    Nancy: thank you so much. You are an awesome friend!

    Mom: I can’t come back to this page without crying. You are such an amazing and strong woman. I don’t know what I ever would have done if we hadn’t gotten through things, but we did. I’ll keep this short and sweet, mostly because we talk often enough that I hope you already know: I love you, so much. And I am so glad that I can do this for you, and that you will be right there with me.

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Everybody, for your support and your comments! Cindy, I have to agree with Ryan that you are one of the most amazing, strong women I know of. And you raised a GREAT son in Ryan! You have much to be proud of! 🙂

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