PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

October 21, 2012

Maraist uses experiences to help others fight breast cancer

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

NEDERLAND — Aaren LeDoux stood in front of her parents’ front door frozen by fear and desperation as she mustered the emotional strength to enter the family abode.

She knew that once she entered the door about a year ago she would be faced with a sight that would be difficult to see and to accept. Her mother, Ramona “Monin” Maraist, had breast cancer. The diagnosis and subsequent partial mastectomy which included the removal of 13 lymph nodes plus eight rounds of chemotherapy and 36 radiation treatments, had taken their toll physically. But what made the situation even more real was the loss of her mother’s hair.

“Cancer is a hateful word. It rips families apart,” LeDoux said while seated across from her parents Ramona and Walter Maraist on a recent afternoon. LeDoux, the youngest of the Maraist’s five children, begins to cry. “My mom is Puerto Rican and she had worn her hair down to her waist, which was traditional, and the church she grew up in did not cut their hair.”

Maraist’s hair began to fall out while undergoing cancer therapy so LeDoux asked her husband to ask his mother, a beautician, to go to Maraist’s home and shave her head.

“I stopped at the door and said ‘God you’re going to have to help me. I’m going to go in there and see my mom bald,’” LeDoux said. “I went inside and saw her, she had this perfect little round head.”

LeDoux was strengthened by the sight and by her faith.

“For a woman, losing ones hair is traumatic,” the daughter said. “If a woman loses a breast, you can cover that.”

Maraist’s journey with cancer began when she discovered a suspicious lump in her breast. The now 74-year-old woman knew something was not right with her body but two mammograms and three doctors did not detect the cancer. Maraist’s tenacity paid off — she insisted on having the lump removed and at that time, April 2010, the diagnosis was made. Even the doctor who performed the surgery was surprised the lump was cancerous, Maraist said.

Deep down, Maraist knew she had cancer.

“From the beginning I said ‘Lord, there’s only one thing I ask of you, let me be witness and help someone else going through this,’” Maraist said through tears. While in the hospital she saw others who were fighting cancer and went to them. “There was this lady in the hospital who was 29-years-old and she had an aggressive, aggressive kind of cancer and she was there with her little girl. I prayed with her.”

On another occasion she saw a young lady going through cancer treatments alone. The woman, Maraist said, had a hole in her chest. She followed the woman and comforted her with prayer.

“It tore my heart out to see her,” she said. “I’m not special but I’m special to God.”

Deeply religious, Maraist knew in her heart that God allowed her to have cancer and was leading her footsteps all the way, she said.

Maraist did not waste time getting back to her regular lifestyle. Three weeks after surgery she was teaching Sunday School to 2 and 3 year olds just as she had done for the past 27 years and she cooked a holiday meal for 30 people. She donned a wig and sang in the choir a week after her hair fell out but wigs weren’t her style so she wore hats instead, LeDoux said adding that she believed God let her mother be strong to go through cancer.

It wasn’t long after the treatments were over that Maraist — whose hair was very straight while growing up — began to see wisps of curls and waves coming in.

Walter Maraist, Ramona’s husband of more than five decades, lent humor to the conversation regarding Ramona’s new growth of hair.

“I made her mad when I told her that if she dyed her hair orange she’d look like Little Orphan Annie,” Walter Maraist said with a laugh.

Today, Maraist sports shoulder length thick dark hair with a slight sprinkling of gray. She is cancer free.

“I continue to hope to be a witness to others and to comfort and help others,” she said. “I believe God gave me faith, not to put in a little bottle, but to share.

LeDoux called her mother a fighter who truly feels like God let her go through cancer so she can help someone going through it.

“She may have had cancer but cancer never had her,” LeDoux said to which her mother answered “I never allowed it to.”

mmeaux@panews.com