Mary Rogers is a 62-year-old, lifelong resident of West Duluth who has already survived cancer once. The challenge now is to do it all over again, but this time, Rogers and her family are asking for help from the Twin Ports community.
Rogers is a breast cancer survivor who has been cancer-free for almost five years. That changed in August of 2014, when doctors diagnosed her with angiosarcoma, a very rare form of cancer.
Angiosarcoma is a cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels. Rogers’ doctors told her angiosarcoma occurs in breast cancer survivors because of the chemotherapy and radiation they receive while battling their breast cancer.
“It’s kind of a double whammy,” Rogers said. “Getting sick because I survived.”
After consulting with her team of doctors, Rogers realized that the treatment she needed wasn’t covered under her Medicare insurance. Her daughter, Billie Suomala, sat down with her to discuss how she was going to afford her treatment.
“That’s when I had the idea,” Suomala said. “I knew I had to do something to help my mom out.”
Suomala organized a dinner benefit in her mother’s honor at Mr. D’s Bar and Grill in West Duluth. But because Rogers is a private person, it was a challenge for her to ask for the financial help she needs.
“She never liked being the center of attention,” Suomala said. “She hates the idea of being the object of pity and has declined all TV interviews.”
Suomala said she also had to persuade her mother to put her picture on the flyers that advertise her benefit.
Rogers is staying at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and is receiving care from her team of 13 doctors. Rogers said that she is receiving daily doses of radiation in the left breast, the site of her previous cancer. The radiation is intended to kill any cancerous tissue, some of which is dangerously close to her heart.
“That is the scary part,” Rogers said. “If the cancer gets too close to my heart, it is inoperable.”
In 2008, Rogers retired from her career as a certified nursing assistant for Northshore nursing. Being a CNA has prepared Rogers in her private life to take care of family members and family friends -- tasks that include cleaning and cooking around the house, administering medication and providing end-of-life care.
“I always let people know that my door isn’t locked and that anyone who needed my help had a place to stay,” Rogers said.
Rogers’ benefit is on Oct. 18, at 3 p.m. and will serve a spaghetti dinner for $10 in advance and $15 at the door. People who come wearing pink pay $10 at the door.
There also will be a silent auction including items from dozens of Twin Ports businesses, a necklace from Helzberg Diamonds and hotel stays at various locations in the Twin Ports. Donations will be accepted at any Wells Fargo under the Mary Rogers Benefit account.