"It’s been 10 years, now,” the strong voice said on the phone. Mari Justin is a breast cancer survivor. She, along with hundreds of thousands of breast cancer veterans have faced the demons and now crusade alongside those who are fresh on the battlefield.
There’s something remarkable about these warrior women. Well, you know too, as most of us are touched by their traumatic journeys in some way.
I asked Mari, a Scottsdale resident — a mother of two — to share how she managed in her darkest times.
“It’s funny when you first get diagnosis ... there is no pain and no visible awareness that it’s there. It’s the strangest thing,” she wrote in response about the “beautiful and courageous women who fight cancer.”
She added: “It’s the treatments and recovery that are the challenges. I have to be completely honest and even though being diagnosed stage three and being told my cancer was out of my tumor and in my blood stream, my tongue swelled up so big I couldn’t talk, my finger nails and toe nails turned completely black, my bladder was on fire, I lost all my hair, I had to do 35 hyperbaric dives that bulged my eyes out that left permanent damage on my eye sight, all might seem bleak. However, I never was afraid and I never stop smiling and being funny.
“This is when I truly began to trust God and realized everything in life happens for a reason. No matter how awful it might be. I learned not to doubt the power of God, not to take the support from family and close friends and especially my husband for granted and I learned to be brave.”
Mari’s husband, music artist Sydney “Steele” Justin, a former professional football player and member of the 1980 Super Bowl runner-up Los Angeles Rams, played a major role in her recovery. That may have something to do with why the “Motown Sounds of The Miracles” — Sydney is the group’s lead singer — will be the highlight of the May 4 Breast Cancer Society Awareness Concert at the Comerica Theater in Downtown Phoenix. Details of the event and ticket info are available at evtnow.com/5d4.
Concert benefits will go towards the BCS’s Hope Supply Program to provide direct help and assistance to patients. The BCS reports many of Sydney’s former NFL teammates will be in attendance at the concert.
Sydney’s role in Mari’s battle with breast cancer gives him crucial perspective as a man. He learned he had plenty to offer; he became her “partner, her coach, and her cheerleader.”
He warns of the importance of reducing stress. “Stress hurts more than people think; I believe it compounds the disease.”
What’s clear in the Justin family story is those who can turn towards love and service seem often to do better in trials. The approach has a healing power all of its own.
Mari takes that love power into the animal kingdom. She is an animal chef, who has been cooking for her pets and friends’ pets for over 25 years (checkout www.mariskitchencookingshow.com). She observes the same things are happening to our animals as to us. Because of their food and environment, “they too get cancer.”
With her breast cancer cured, Mari and Sydney learned in 2011 of cancer in her thyroid, which was immediately removed.
She shares that news with her usual spirit of optimism and with this: “I’m cancer free!”
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (email@example.com) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.