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Survivor Raises Funds With Gumbo and Golf Lessons

Article date: May 14, 2003

Mary LeQuire Image

If I can do anything, at anytime, to help someone with this horrible struggle with cancer, I will do it.


'God's Not Done With Me'

When Mary LeQuire talks passionately about raising money and fighting cancer, it's all about other people and the needs of her community. This vivacious, 50-something woman from Douglasville, Georgia, lost three friends to cancer this year — one who was just 44 years old. "When you lose people, you grieve…and then you get angry," explained LeQuire.

Extremely busy was the best description of LeQuire in the hours leading up to the Douglasville Relay For Life — an ACS fund-raising event to fight cancer. She was so busy and efficient — finding room for 150 servings of donated seafood gumbo — it's hard to imagine that she was sidelined by cancer and chemotherapy herself less than three years ago.

LeQuire was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2000, and remains deeply affected by the help that poured in from her family and community. "My sister made me so much chicken soup that I've still got chicken soup in my freezer," she laughed. "My community supported me. They were on my doorstep with meals; they helped cook and clean; and they prayed for me," she remembered.

Her life changed literally overnight with the diagnosis of a fast-moving cancer. In April, 2000, the outlook was all blue skies for LeQuire's growing crystal imports business, her health was good, and her annual mammogram was clear. Then in August, her breast felt sore. Her family doctor didn't feel anything worrisome at the time, but soon LeQuire noticed swelling, and the soreness worsened. A new mammogram showed only an area of thickened tissue, but a biopsy found an 8 cm tumor. The diagnosis was stage III infiltrating ductal carcinoma.

"I was devastated. I felt like my life was over," recalls LeQuire. She had a mastectomy, removal of two lymph nodes, and reconstructive surgery. Then she began seven rounds of chemotherapy. "I lost every hair on my body," she noted.

Over that difficult time her relationships deepened and she began to question the priorities of everyday life. "I wondered, 'How important is it to have a perfectly clean house? A perfect yard? Balanced, home-cooked meals?'" Around the same time LeQuire's friend Marie Anthony was diagnosed with cancer at 44 and died roughly a year later. "She was the first person to send me a letter of prayer and encouragement after my diagnosis," recalled LeQuire. Anthony had been an active volunteer in the community.

More questions shook LeQuire: "I thought, 'Why am I here, when Linda and Marie are not? There's gotta be a reason. God's not done with me."

In spring of 2002, LeQuire felt well enough to walk the survivors' lap of her local American Cancer Society Relay for Life event. When planning began for the 2003 Relay, LeQuire jumped at the chance. "I stood up and said, 'OK, I'm ready.'

As a team captain, LeQuire threw herself into preparations for the event. She recruited 35 friends and neighbors for the "Chapel Hill Tigers" team, named for her large subdivision. They found volunteer hair stylists to "Cut for the Cure" during the Relay event. They convinced a couple of golf pros to offer chipping and putting lessons.

When the event began on a Friday evening in April, a storm with heavy rain, high winds, and large hailstones moved into the Atlanta area — just north of Douglasville. Hundreds of Relay volunteers from LeQuire's community were gathered outdoors around a high school track. The Chapel Hill Tigers went on selling haircuts, putting lessons, and gumbo.

"We didn't have a drop of rain, no wind, nothing," said LeQuire. "It was like the storm parted and went around us." With the skies not quite blue, but definitely cooperating, the Chapel Hill Tigers raised more than $10,000 — to the delight of team captain LeQuire, who was already planning next year's event.