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6-time cancer survivor hopes to inspire

July 24, 2013
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

Mary Pappas of Boardman, will be spreading hope and healing this Saturday as she holds her first book signing for "Courage, Hope and Healing - Finding God's presence through life's toughest circumstances." The book is the story of Pappas' life and her battle with cancer, not once, but six times.

Pappas is a BHS class of 1979 graduate whose life seemed to start out like any average Valley resident. She married Steve Pappas and was ready to start a family and live the American dream. In 1985, that dream took a turn down a different, dark and scary road.

"When I was 23, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the sinus gland," she said.

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Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Mary Pappas of Boardman, will be signing her first book this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Family Christian Book Store, 7415 Market St. Her book, 'Courage, Hope and Healing - Finding God's presence through life's toughest circumstances' documents Pappas’ life and six-time battle with a rare cancer.

It was a rare tumor of the thymus gland called thymoma. The thymus gland is thought to be largely responsible for cell immunity, especially during childhood. In the case of Pappas, the cells in the gland began to abnormally multiply, resulting in a very large tumor in her chest. The next step was open chest surgery to remove the tumor, followed by five weeks of chemotherapy.

For several years, she said, she was living with her parents and spent a lot of time reading the Bible and gaining courage in her cancer battle. She wanted to move forward in life and have a baby. She said she prayed and told God she would dedicate the baby to Him and on June 25, 1987, she got a sign.

"I was reading the story of Samuel and said, 'wow, this is me.' The same day I walked outside and saw a rainbow in the sky. I went back inside to get my camera and when I returned there were two rainbows."

She felt that was a sign from God that she would have twins. Not long after, she ended up pregnant. At the same time, her doctors found another tumor.

"I was in pain for two weeks," she said. "Later I had a miscarriage. I thought for a moment that God had blown it."

She was even told by a doctor that she may not want to consider children because they would grow up without a mother.

She got past that thought and continued her prayers and devotion. Three months later, she said, she found herself pregnant again. She had an ultrasound and sure enough, she was carrying twins. She went full term and gave birth to Stephen and Michael, who both turned 24 this year.

Since her first diagnosis, Pappas has undergone five more battles with cancer. She has had three major open chest operations. In 2003, doctors found a tumor on her liver and successfully removed it, but Pappas ended up in a coma for two weeks.

"People with cancer have a tough time. It's all about healing emotionally," Pappas said. "I knew God was watching over me and still is. Today, I am cancer free,"

After raising her sons, Pappas decided she wanted to pursue one ambition she held for a long time.

"I always wanted to write a book," she said. "I just never thought my first one would be about myself."

She felt moved to offer her story as a way to give others inspiration to make it through tough times. Intertwined throughout her story, Pappas shares many divine "God-incidences" and encounters that helped her to realize God had a plan for her life.

She got Pastor David L. Thomas from Victory Christian Center, where Pappas is a member, to write the foreword in her book.

"With gentle humor, Mary takes us with her on a candid reflection of the crossroads we all face when life doesn't make sense; when things don't turn out the way we think they should or the way God 'should have' done things, but didn't," Thomas wrote. "It is Pappas' hope that her story will encourage every cancer survivor and reader to know that they are not alone and there is a light at the end of what seems like a never-ending road."

As for her husband, Steve, he is more than proud of the work his wife has done.

"It was hard to be a caregiver with all that one goes through," he said. "But I do get to see and witness the miracles."

Pappas' book was released in March and this Saturday will be her first book signing. She isn't sitting back and taking it easy though. She is currently writing a complement book of devotions on "Courage, Hope and Healing."



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