Letter: Remembering Mary Hayes

Remembering Mary Hayes

Not really knowing Mary, I felt I did know Mary.

As a part-time and now full-time resident of Aspen for the past 16 years, I met Mary Hayes on many occasions, and she was always gracious, kind and professional and seemed to really care about you and her role as a photographer.

As an 8 1/2-year survivor of pancreatic cancer, I can speak to the devastation that this terrifying diagnosis brings. There are no early detection markers — 73 percent die in the first 12 months and only 6 percent survive five years. I can only imagine the heartache she and her loving family endured. This is a painful, frightening journey with so many unanswered questions.

Fortunately, I found the valuable resources of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which provided me with information on treatment options, clinical trials, diet and nutrition, disease information, physician specialists and much more.

After years of chemotherapy, many surgeries, unimaginable side effects, paddles to start my heart, emergency-room visits too numerous to count and a final diagnosis to get my affairs in order — I had three to six months to live. I have defied the odds, and am now healthy, thriving and living an active life in Aspen. As chairwoman of the board of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, I travel the country interacting with patients, caregivers, scientists and physicians and lobby Congress on behalf of research funding for this dreadful disease. I deliver speeches to pharmaceutical companies, corporations and volunteer affiliates in an effort to heighten the awareness of pancreatic cancer so people like Mary can have a chance.

As you reported, friendship was Mary’s gift; she focused on people and loved random acts of kindness. I hope, in some way, I can extend that kindness and these gifts to her family and others to mentor and inspire as Mary did for so many.

Laurie MacCaskill