August 21, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Fighting cancer: Continuing hope for the future

Shirley Vogler MeisterI smiled when I saw a photo of 80-year-old Sister Mary John Tintea, a Daughter of Charity who ministers at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, in the July 10 issue of The Criterion.

Sister Mary John is raising funds for The Weekend to End Breast Cancer, a two-day, 60-kilometer walk on Sept. 26-27 in Indianapolis that benefits the St. Vincent Foundation. Proceeds go toward breast cancer research and education.

Shortly thereafter, I received a book in the mail titled Sometimes You Have to Laugh: A Poet’s Look at Cancer by Marilyn Stacy.

We are graduates of the Academy of Notre Dame, once operated by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Belleville, Ill.

How long ago that seems, but how very much present it is, because this month is our 55th class reunion at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Stacy, a professor emeritus and psychotherapist in private practice in Dallas, Texas, has published fiction, non-fiction and other poetry.

In 2006, she was surprised to be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Having already agreed to teach some college classes that fall—and having already accepted the presidency for the Poetry Society of Texas—she chose to move ahead in those roles.

“I wanted to have other things to think about,” she said.

After surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, she began exercising then playing basketball with friends.

Her husband, Dean, and their five children, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren—and her friends—bolstered her during 11 months of treatments.

Whenever I read anything about breast cancer, I think about the many friends I have who suffered through the same treatments that she had—and also survived. This could not have happened without the ongoing research and new treatments discovered in the last 25 years.

Each breast cancer survivor is testimony to the possibility of a cure someday.

Those like Stacy, who share their experiences, also promote a better future for others.

One of the many poems that I treasure in her book is titled “” and reads as follows:

“The nurse asked/if they might/put one of my poems/on their Web site/with other patients’/creative work./Why not?/If I’m represented/on an oncologist’s site,/better with a poem/than as a statistic.”

I wish I could share more of her poems as well as the practical advice she gives on the bottom of many pages in her book.

I recommend that readers contact her at to order her inexpensive, 84-page book.

My husband, Paul, and I recommend Sometimes You Have to Laugh. His comment after reading it was a sincere, “This is great!”

As a reminder, to help Sister Mary John Tintea surpass her $10,000 goal toward fighting cancer or to register for the September walk, call 317-879-9255 or log on to

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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