Mary is passionate about her family. She enjoys spending as much time as possible with her husband, her grown daughters, and especially her young grandson, who, to Mary's delight, calls her "Sugar." The experience of mothering and now grandmothering has enriched Mary's life immeasurably and fueled her deep desire to make things better for everyone's children and grandchildren. This passion lies at the root of her writing, her health advocacy efforts, and her pursuit of a doctoral degree in Human Development.
Through her nonfiction and fiction writing, Mary touches on topics that are important to her: family, community, social justice, human dignity, cancer survivorship, disparate health care, and underrepresented people such as the homeless. Recently, she has begun to infuse information about women's health issues into her fiction writing. Mary believes that "to empower people and bring about change, information must be presented where people are likely to encounter it."
In 1996, Mary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Initially, she sought to "educate herself about the disease to become a credible advocate for her own health and survival." Very soon, newly diagnosed women were being referred to her for support. The power of connecting with others and the strength of women fighting the disease inspired her. Mary is involved with a number of advocacy organizations and participates on numerous committees focused on improving education, eliminating health disparities, providing support, and funding research in ovarian cancer. She is co-founder and President of In My Sister's Care, a national organization focused on eliminating health disparities, and Chair of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Outreach Task Force. With the National Cancer Institute, Mary is a member of the Director's Consumer Liaison Group and was a member of the Progress Review Group on Gynecological Cancers. Mary is a charter member of the Washington Advisory Cancer Council and a member of the Board of Directors of the Ovarian and Gynecologic Cancer Coalition - Rhonda's Club. In addition, she is on the Editorial Board of the American Association for Cancer Research's consumer magazine, CR, and is a grant application reviewer for the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Mary feels "the most rewarding aspects of advocacy efforts are interacting directly with women and families seeking support and assuring them that they are neither alone nor powerless in their journeys."
Mary learned about the OCRP through the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. She participated continuously in the OCRP from its inception through 2006 both on Scientific Review Panels and on the Integration Panel. Mary feels that the OCRP is "one of the most significant advocacy efforts" in which she has engaged and that "the experience has been enlightening and empowering." She encourages survivors to consider participating, stating that advocates offer "unique and necessary perspectives" and "do make a tangible difference in the research landscape." She also notes, "The work is not easy; it is meaningful and life-saving."