EMU's Watson helping United Way, American Cancer Society help others survive familiar fight
YPSILANTI - Mary Ann Watson knows how to fight like a champion.
Five years ago, she was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer and she beat it. Now that she is cancer free, she feels greatly indebted to the American Cancer Society, a United Way agency, and spends much of her time volunteering on the organization's board of directors.
"Both my husband and I are cancer survivors and we have been direct beneficiaries of the research and support programs funded by the American Cancer Society," said Watson, professor of telecommunications and film in the department of communication and theatre arts. "To be able to serve the organization that has done so much for us and many others is a genuine privilege."
Watson donated to the Cancer Society for a long time before she was diagnosed, but started volunteering time to the organization soon after she started treatment.
"During treatment, I was so exhausted and slept for many hours during the day," said Watson. "I always woke up to watch 'Oprah' and, one day, she was doing a show on cancer, and the responsibility of recovery and the obligation to be cured. After that show, I made a deal with God. (I realized) if you want to get through your illness, you have responsibilities. It was then that I got involved with the Cancer Society."
Watson also was very grateful to have her husband as a rock to lean on, especially because he understood what she was going through. Her husband was diagnosed with a different form of cancer, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, in 2003.
"The best experience for me while working with the Cancer Society was the day that I learned that my husband had responded to the chemotherapy," said Watson. "It was nice to have what we went through in common, because sometimes it's harder to be the spouse rather than the patient. As the spouse, you don't want to see the person go through it."
"It also was nice to meet people on campus who had cancer because they were the best support," she said. "They really made me feel like I was going to be OK."
Watson was recently elected to serve as a member of the Cancer Society's Board of Directors.
The board has many important responsibilities, including directing, protecting and promoting the organization and its mission. The board works collaboratively with the CEO to develop strategic plans and the staff focuses on implementing them. The activity of the board impacts the mission of the Cancer Society by focusing on what gets done.
They also have additional responsibilities, including attending four meetings per year (two in Michigan and two in Indiana) and a two-day retreat biannually. Watson attended the first meeting of the newly elected board Nov. 3 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Throughout the time that she has been affiliated with the Cancer Society, she also has been a speaker at events pertaining to cancer, participated in Lobby Day (the Cancer Society board members and volunteers go to Lansing to talk to legislators about legislation affecting cancer patients) and was the team captain for Relay for Life when the event took place on EMU's campus.
"I hope that we can someday bring Relay for Life back to Eastern Michigan's campus and get the students involved," she said. "I would really like to see a student Relay for Life here."
Watson's last radiation and chemotherapy treatment was in spring 2001. She has been cancer-free since.
"I feel extremely grateful to the Cancer Society for everything they have done for me," she said. "I was lucky enough to have a disease at a time when it could be cured. I'm glad that I was tough enough to survive this."
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.