Friday, January 21, 2022

One family STANDS UP to Cancer

Judy and Coach (Joe) Mayo with daughters (from back left) Melissa Williams and Angela Piatelli.This photo was taken shortly after Coach was diagnosed with cancer and just prior to Judy’s diagnosis.

Judy and Coach (Joe) Mayo with daughters (from back left) Melissa Williams and Angela Piatelli.This photo was taken shortly after Coach was diagnosed with cancer and just prior to Judy’s diagnosis.

By Jane A. Marlowe 

Judy Mayo is my dearest friend, my support system, my sister in Christ, my neighbor, my sounding board, my hero. She is involved in many ministries in our San Marco Catholic Church, helping parishioners with practical and spiritual needs, assisting with the bereavement group, grief support, serving as a Eucharistic Minister and Homebound Minister bringing the Sacred Eucharist to members of the parish who are unable to attend Mass. She serves in all these capacities quietly and joyfully and when asked how she is doing, her response is always, “I’m just fine. Isn’t today a beautiful day? Aren’t we lucky to live on this wonderful island?”

One day in January, 2007 she began her day in her usual, positive manner, off to the doctor for an annual checkup which included a mammogram. Her physician called her later that day to tell her he had some concerns and wanted a biopsy performed at once. Judy, in the company of her two daughters, Angela and Melissa, heard the results of the biopsy and immediately contacted her family physician, Dr. Ashley Tunkle.

Dr. Tunkle waited for the Mayo family to reach her office and they discussed the cancerous mass which had been confirmed in Judy’s right breast. The available options were reviewed with Dr. Ashley who then recommended that Judy consult her husband, surgeon Dr. Sam Tunkle, for further advice since the Mayos had no preferred surgeon. The next day Judy and her daughters met with Dr. Sam and discussed surgical options, lumpectomy with chemotherapy and radiation or full mastectomy.

Judy’s husband, Joe, Coach Mayo, had been diagnosed with lung cancer a few months before Judy’s diagnosis and was receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Judy opted for a full mastectomy because she could not see her family go through the trial of both herself and her husband receiving extended regimens of cancer treatment requiring frequent trips back and forth to Naples.

In the days preceding the date of her surgery Judy received many calls from friends and relatives who had experienced cancer. They offered her support and shared their stories with her. Donna Norton, sister of Judy’s son-in-law, Gary Piatelli, called from her home in Hawaii to offer comfort. “You will never know how much you are loved until you have cancer.” How true that simple and beautiful comment was. Judy was surrounded with support from her family, her friends, her San Marco Church community and her colleagues at the Marco Island Marriott.

“On the day of my surgery as I was wheeled into the operating room, there sat my family and friends filling the waiting room. I knew I was not going alone into that unfamiliar, antiseptic surgery. I had my operating team with me and my prayer team just outside the doors.”

Judy’s surgeon was encouraged by her recovery and after two days sent her home to continue her recovery. Her brother, Jake and his wife, Cheryl, arrived from Connecticut on the day of her discharge to look after Judy and assist Coach with his trips to Naples for chemotherapy and radiation. The household was busy and hectic with two cancer patients to attend to but this is a family who takes joy in being together and nothing is a task when done for one another. Jake’s upbeat personality and Cheryl’s quiet efficiency made it possible for Angela and Melissa to go back to work knowing their Mom and Dad were in good hands.

Family time became ever more precious and even friends and visitors to the house departed laughing after enjoying Jake’s great humor and touched by Coach and

Judy Mayo and Bryce Ehlen, pictured five years ago, as cancer survivors at a Relay for Life event. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Judy Mayo and Bryce Ehlen, pictured five years ago, as cancer survivors at a Relay for Life event. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Judy’s amazing attitude toward their mutual battle against cancer. One of Judy’s first trips out of the house, of course, was to her hairdresser, Kathleen of Marco Island! Judy was still experiencing discomfort under her arm from the removal of lymph nodes. Kathleen immediately recognized Judy’s problem and disappeared into her back room. She brought out a small pillow which she tucked under her arm which gave Judy so much comfort. Judy carried that pillow around for weeks!

Part of the services of the American Cancer Society is to provide simple relief like small pillows made by groups of women locally and across the country for their “sisters” who are in recovery. Breast cancer survivors are happy to assist with this simple yet vital project as well as to support the many missions of the American Cancer Society.

A month after Judy’s surgery, Jake heard about Relay For Life which was to be held at Mackle Park that year. “He encouraged me to walk and how amazed I was to find I wasn’t alone. There were so many survivors in purple shirts. I finished the walk with the support of my family and friends cheering me on. So many people shared their recovery with me, especially my colleagues at the Marriott and so many guests visiting our resort that month.”

“Relay For Life has a special place in my heart because I know it is the source of millions of dollars which have been poured into research to find a cure. My husband and I were very passionate about supporting Relay. The following year, Joe walked the course with our daughters, Angela and Melissa. Before Joe lost his battle with cancer on September 27, 2008, he supported my own survival, the battle my brother was about to begin and was a quiet advocate for cancer research.”

“My brother, Jake, and his wonderful wife, Cheryl, stayed with us for more than three months, shopping, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, all with love and joy. When they returned to Connecticut they checked out a lump on Jake’s neck which they thought was a minor problem. His diagnosis was lymphoma, not a minor problem. The third member of our family now had a diagnosis of cancer.”

“Jake began the ritual of chemotherapy treatments several times a week. After their amazing caretaking of Joe and me we could not hurry to their side. We lived on the telephone and stormed Heaven with our prayers for them. The lymphoma responded to treatment and Jake has had four years of renewed health.”

Judy has been on the medication, Tomoxifin, as part of her follow up care. She is regularly followed by Dr. Susan Morgan, her oncologist, located in Naples. She has passed her five year anniversary and approaching her sixth year of cancer free status. She is grateful to her wonderful, accomplished doctors for their sensitivity and care through the years of her return to health. She is a willing volunteer of the American Cancer Society through Spirit to Serve of the Marco Island Marriott Resort.

“In April, 2013, Relay For Life of Marco Island will be held at Charter Middle School campus. My Marriott family is actively planning for Relay. My colleague, Cathy Nelson and I, are co-chairs of Survivors/Caretakers and we invite you to contact us to participate in Survivors’ Walk and Survivors’ Lunch prior to Kick Off on April 13, 2013. We will be so pleased to talk with you and share this important event. We can be reached at: Cathy: 239- 389-1302. Judy: 239-389-2015. You may also contact the American Cancer Society, Marco Island Unit directly at: 239-642- 8800.”

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