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Told by her partner of 26 years, Lori Lewis
As soon as you Meet Marijo, you realize what a remarkable human being is. Her initial smile, coupled with her love for people, generosity and strength made her incredibly unique. She is the person that folks feel comfortable telling their deepest secrets or to just ask her advice on any given subject. Being a Jersey girl at heart, Mare relocated to Pennsylvania in the early 1990’s. Although she left behind her family and friends, she brought her jersey accent and 80’s fashion sense. Not only a mom to 4 of her own children and a Mimi to 5 grandkids, Mare is a JoJo, a DoeDoe, a best friend, a confidant and a feeling of home and family to so many. Everyone feels loved and welcome at our house. That’s why everyone, young and old, wants to go to Mimi’s House.
What started as a simple back ache, Mare was convinced she had a UTI. She felt her energy waning and her pain getting more severe, so she went for yet another physical. What she didn’t know was she was suffering from a silent demon that kills thousands of women every year. That’s when the Ovarian Cancer adventure began. A world wind of emotions, uncertainty, and unbridled fear.
Mare’s fight began quickly that summer. Being the Marijo she is, she wanted to squeeze our summer vacation in before she started treatment. So, to the Outer Banks we traveled. It was a very tense vacation to say the least. We didn’t know if it was her nerves or the disease that made her feel so terrible that week, but we soon found out. 2 days after we returned from vacation, Mare had a bowl obstruction. Something very common in ovarian cancer patients. We spent 12 days in the hospital. I say we, because I didn’t leave her side (except to go home and shower) for all 12 days. I slept in the hospital chair, only to be awakened every hour to hear the chimes of the machines and to tell the nurse her name and date of birth. She began Chemotherapy in the hospital bed, and we scheduled her surgery.
This is when I realized that cancer has now become my full-time job, a job I was in no way qualified for. I was clueless. I had no idea how to manage my business, my life as I once knew it, I was the one cared for, to now being the caregiver, the support system for the kids. I was the one everyone looked for answers, but I didn’t have them.
That’s when the idea of Mimi’s house was hatched. A network of help and guidance for the caregiver, the one in the background trying to hold it all together while everyone is falling apart. Our goal is to offer home guidance for the newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patients’ families and primary caregivers. To help with the whirlwind they are about to experience and to arm them with the tools and emotional support they will need to get through the first year of treatment.