Everybody handles bad news differently. Some folks retreat into themselves or go into a state of denial. Others get really sad. Some get angry. Marty Whitlow got busy.
Three years ago, Marty – an otherwise happy, healthy and energetic Kindergarten teacher – was diagnosed with advanced Stage 3C ovarian cancer. After further testing, doctors realized the cancer had spread throughout her entire abdominal area.
Marty handled the news the way she handles everything – head on. While I know she and her family must have experienced bouts of extreme fear and doubt, Marty didn’t focus much on those feelings, but rather on the battle to kick butt. And kick butt she did.
Not only did she take on a very specialized and aggressive form of chemo at the University of Virginia’s Cancer Center, she also took on the role of the poster child for success. Always positive in her approach to dealing with the enemy – this new part of her being that didn’t belong -- she broke records left and right. The doctors were amazed by her medical progress as well as her endlessly upbeat disposition. How could someone so sick hold not only herself together, but everyone else around her together as well? But she did. That’s Marty’s way.
And to top that off, once she won the battle, and her cancer was in remission, instead of traipsing around the world checking off a “list of things to do before it’s all over” or buying herself a fancy new sports car, she focused completely on raising money to help others win the same battle. In less than a year, she and her husband John – yet another Charlottesville musician -- raised over $20,000 for ovarian cancer research at UVa.
This past weekend, Marty and John kicked it up a notch and initiated the First Annual Dance for Life gathering at the Southern Music Hall on the downtown mall. Local favorites The Gladstones, John’s band Scuffletown, and Thomas Gunn and I joined forces and instruments for a rousing night of music and dancing.
Let me tell you, before I even arrived, I knew the place would be full. If you’ve ever met Marty or John, you know that they never do anything halfway. The Southern was trimmed floor to ceiling with bright blue decorations. There were tables lined with fabulous items up for auction: a sailing trip, fine art, fine dining, a stay at a local inn, photography sessions, a private concert. The crowd laughed, cheered and kicked up their heels.
I am an optimist so, obviously, I love this story. I love that Marty is winning the war – not just for herself but for others as well. And I know first-hand -- as do many of you -- that the good guys don’t always win. So, when things go terribly wrong and then right themselves – whether by good luck, good medical care, or sheer will -- I am thrilled, joyous and downright celebratory. You bet I’m gonna dance and sing. You bet I’m gonna get busy, too!
For more information about the Marty Whitlow Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at UVA Cancer Center go to: bit.ly/mwhitlowfund