I Will Survive—and Provide

I Will Survive—and Provide

Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor Gives Back To Resource Center
by Sara Michael

Joan Clark, RN, always had nice hair. Before undergoing chemotherapy, the two-time breast cancer survivor—like many women—took pride in her blonde bob.

Joan Clark, RN, received a surprise donation to help fellow cancer patients.

“I always took great pains in having nice hair, always spent the extra money,” she says. As she lost her hair to cancer treatment, Clark found a place where she could recreate her locks: the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center at Howard County General Hospital.

For those newly diagnosed with cancer, the Center provides a refuge of non-medical support and knowledge, offering everything from educational resources to beauty products and services. For Clark, that help came in the form of a hairdresser, who chose a wig similar to her previous coiffure.

“You leave the doctor’s office and they are the first group you seek out, because they will guide you,” Clark says. “You walk in with an army of people ready to help you.”

I got the news. No one wants to hear
“You have breast cancer”—so much to fear
Where do I turn—who can help me
The Claudia Mayer Center, as you will see. This local Center gives so much
It wraps around you with the human touch
Advice and direction through the haze
Of cancer treatment over months and days. Providing education on the disease
How to stay strong are important keys
Pairing women up with someone who knows
To guide us through our angst and woes. Feeling better with new hair
Doing it with a sense of flair
Beginning to feel like a woman again
Emotionally and physically on the mend. They gave me hope when I was lost
They gave me answers at no cost
The Claudia Mayer Center is a gem
The fight would have been tougher without them.- Joan Clark and Ellen Merrill

Clark’s experience, and that of others she knew in Howard’s ICU where she works, prompted her to nominate the Center for a $70,000 donation—which she received in an unusual way. She got an invitation to the 70th birthday celebration of a relative, Wyoming billionaire Foster Friess, who requested that guests recommend a charity to which he would donate.

Although Clark thought it would be a long shot, she recommended the Cancer Center. As it would turn out, each guest who made a pitch received $70,000, bringing the total to more than $8 million. The donation came at a time when the Center had lost a few patients and were in need of some good news, says Ellen Merrill, fellow ICU nurse and long-time friend of Clark who helped her craft the pitch.

“You meet them and feel as if you’ve known them a long time,” Merrill says of the Center. Indeed, the Center played an enormous role in Clark’s own recovery, a path she has taken twice.

“I was quite shocked I was diagnosed a second time,” Clark says. Her first diagnosis, in 2000, came after a routine screening that caught the cancer early. The second time, however, they almost missed it. In 2003 she saw a program on CNN with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about breast MRIs, an emerging procedure appropriate for some patients.

She asked her oncologist for the screening, and the scan revealed cancer that involved the lymph nodes. “I couldn’t believe it,” she recalls. Seven years later, she is in excellent health, a beacon of hope for survivors and an advocate for a much-needed Resource Center.

Merrill adds, “She’s just a remark-able person.”

Stay Up-To-Date

Get updates on the latest stories, from hot topics, to faculty research, alumni profiles, and more.

Ways to subscribe