Living a life to its fullest helping others

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By JASON ECK

Mari Granger's new life began with a doctor telling her she was going to die.

Since then, the 35-year-old Twain Harte woman has used her fight with breast cancer to teach others about early detection of the disease and the importance of healthy living.

Mari learned she had cancer in the fall of 1997 at age 31. She had noticed a lump in her right breast during a self-examination.

A mastectomy was done and she had reconstructive surgery. Ten days later, she returned to work. Months of chemotherapy followed. She thought she had beaten cancer.

But in early 2000, as she was driving home one night with her two children to their Gainesville, Fla., home, Mari felt a bump on her collarbone. It felt like a little bead, she said, like girls put in their hair.

"I knew I had cancer again," she said.

She said her doctor, with tears in his eyes, confirmed the results of a biopsy in front of Mari, her two children and future husband, Gary. Being honest with her children, she said, was important to her.

The cancer had metastasized, or spread to her bones, particularly in the lower spine and hip area.

" 'I've heard bad news before,'" she said she told the doctor. "'What are you going to tell me? I'm going to die? I've heard that before.' "

The doctor told her she maybe had six months to live.

"I remember seeing my kids outside and I was crying thinking about not seeing them," Mari said. "I wanted to show my children that when you have a challenge like this you have to turn it into something positive."

She and Gary were married in May 2000.

Mari immediately decided she wanted to help others in whatever time she had left, telling Gary, " 'I want to prevent anyone I can from getting this.' " Mari had already appeared on a television show in Florida and spoke to groups about breast cancer. But now she was about to take her cause on the road.

By Memorial Day weekend 2000, the couple began a five-month, 14,000-mile journey across the nation. Prior to Mari's second diagnosis, Gary had started an Internet development company and had plans to launch a Web site, wakeamerica.com, to focus on news and politics.

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