Mary Chris Skeldon stood about five feet tall, but she was a giant among women. Diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in 1997, doctors told her she had a year or so to live. Sixteen years later, she was dancing with me at the Northwest Ohio Komen for the Cure 20th Anniversary Gala event. Mary Chris became a tireless advocate for breast cancer awareness, and a tireless fundraiser for Northwest Ohio Komen, serving as board chair for several years.
Kit Curran had not met Mary Chris when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2013, but as fate would have it, their lives became entwined in a unique way. They are each being honored at this year’s NW Ohio Komen Race for the Cure in Toledo. This year’s Race is being run “In Celebration of Kit Curran” and “In Memory of Mary Chris Skeldon.”
Remembering Mary Chris
Mary Chris was well-known in the community. She worked in public service all her life, and somehow took that service to an even higher level when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, sharing her journey with others, helping people find assistance and making it her personal mission to find a cure for breast cancer.
One of the most inspirational stories Mary Chris would share with people was about when she was first diagnosed and she asked the doctor all sorts of questions about the cancer, the potential treatments and how long she might live.
The doctor told Mary Chris to let him worry about the cancer. “You stay in life,” he told her.
You stay in life. That became her credo. The cancer diagnosis changed Mary Chris in many positive ways. Her family says she didn’t sweat the small stuff, and didn’t mind telling people no when it interfered with something more important and didn’t pass up opportunities to do what she wanted to do. She never left anything unsaid. There wasn’t a time when we were together that she didn’t hug me and say, “I love you” before we parted.
She lived 13 years cancer-free after the initial diagnosis and treatment, and when the cancer came back, Mary Chris volunteered for several clinical research trials. She knew the trial might not help her, but she wanted to help discover drugs and protocols that would help others. She also continued to raise money for NW Ohio Komen to pay for mammograms and other diagnostic tests for women who didn’t have insurance. Kit Curran was one of those women.
At 5’9” Kit is hard to miss when she walks in a room. She has an amazingly generous spirit and smile that are contagious. Kit and her husband are both self-employed and couldn’t afford insurance so Kit went four years without a mammogram.
When her doctor became insistent that she have one, Kit was directed to a Komen-funded program at ProMedica that provided no-cost mammograms to women who were uninsured. Kit’s mammogram showed breast cancer and she began her own journey of treatment and healing.
Kit doesn’t like to think about what might have happened to her if she had waited even one more year to get that mammogram, but she is grateful to Mary Chris and so many others who have raised Komen funds and made them available to women in our community. She shows her gratitude by sharing her cancer journey openly and engaging other women to talk about early detection. She is also now a tireless advocate for Komen. Kit met Mary Chris at the Komen Power of the Promise dinner on April 30 this year, the only time the two women would be face to face.
“I didn’t know how much she was going through,” Kit said. “I remember thinking that I wanted to talk with her more and get to know her better.”
Three weeks later — 18 years after doctors gave her a year to live — Mary Chris Skeldon was surrounded by her family as she took her last breath. Two days before she died I visited Mary Chris at her home. She was tired but still showed her signature humor and compassion. As I left, she told me she loved me and told me to keep fighting. I promised I would.
So I ask you to help me keep that promise and join me in the fight against breast cancer. The NW Ohio Komen Race for the Cure is Saturday, September 26 in Findlay and Sunday, September 27 in downtown Toledo. You can register to walk, run or even sleep-in at either race by clicking here: http://komennwohio.org.
Do it “In Celebration” of a breast cancer survivor who inspires you, or do it “In Memory” of someone you miss. Or like me, do it for both.
Chrys Peterson is a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.