‘I am positive I will see her again’

Marlean Butler, the mother of TJ writer Marla Ballard, showed remarkable bravery in the face of a devastating diagnosis. 

Dad died in 1992 and by 2000, mom (Marlean Butler) and I realized the time had come to move her from Florida to Alabama to be near me. She was about to turn 60 and having family close by in preparation for her “golden years” seemed appropriate. Little did either of us realize that in just four years that decision would bear itself to be one of the wisest decisions of our lives.

While living in Florida, mom had joined in on a breast cancer program that was conducting research and she continued her participation in Alabama. It allowed her free annual mammograms with the promise that if she ever got breast cancer they would pay for her treatments. Although, we had no family history of breast cancer she decided in her fifties to join the program.

In 2004, to everyone’s shock, she was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer. A year-long treatment plan of chemo and radiation began in Gadsden. Mom actually did fairly well throughout treatment with minimal side-effects. One year later we found ourselves celebrating life as she was found to be cancer free.

One of her doctors pulled me aside and said, “She will continue to get other types of cancer. This is a very rare form and it will come back to manifest itself in other ways.” She was right, only a year later mom developed a rare blood cancer. When it was discovered during a checkup, the diagnosis was three weeks to live.

When we walked out of the doctor’s office with the news it was terminal, she said, “No sense sitting around doing nothing. Let’s go out to dinner with our friends and enjoy life.”

Unbeknownst to us she had only ten days left. She lived those ten days with an inspirational attitude. She played pinochle with her friends, continued in her volunteer work, and shared her final thoughts with her loved ones.

Thankfully, she didn’t manifest any outward ill effects until the day of her death on February 20, 2006. She spent the day surrounded by her loved ones. I held her in my arms as she fell asleep and drew her last breath. I’m positive I will see her again and when I do it will be in a place that is cancer-free.

Marla Ballard

Times-Journal Columnist

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