My friend and colleague Mary Ellen Crowley received a diagnosis of cervical cancer this past year. She has gone through three rounds of treatment with radiation and chemotherapy. Cervical cancer is a tough diagnosis to begin with, but we all held out hope that she would beat the odds. But then it spread to her lymph nodes, and now it has made its way into her lungs.
Mary Ellen is just 62. She has made the decision to stop treatment and enjoy the life she has left. As I write this, Mary Ellen is leaving within the hour to head south to Massachusetts to live with her sister Pat, who will take care of her during this final passage of her life.
Mary Ellen looks remarkably good right now. She has been working in the studio to help with the transition of management to Bristol resident Abby Ingraham. A bunch of us helped with packing belongings over the weekend, with laughs and sadness and food and the kinds of things friends can share in these circumstances. I shared more laughs and conversation at the studio yesterday with Mary Ellen, and goodbye hugs, and appreciation and acknowledgement of each other we have developed over the last couple of years.
Mary Ellen has been with LCTV for better than 10 years. She first became involved as a member of the board of directors, and her interest in production drew her quickly into a hands-on role, and for better than nine years now, she has been the station director, which has meant basically doing almost everything.
When I first arrived in my position with The Lincoln Home, I realized what a wonderful educational resource LCTV can be for this community. I approached Mary Ellen with the idea for the “Spotlight on Seniors” show, and within a short time, she provided the training for our production crew, and we have gone on to produce more than 50 shows.
Mary Ellen has a personal passion for giving a voice to people who might not otherwise have a say in community matters. She says, “The most important aspect of LCTV’s mission is to educate people about how to express themselves with video and then give them a place to air their productions.”
With Mary Ellen’s support and guidance, we were able to produce shows to inform our local community on issues such as food insecurity and our local Meals on Wheels program and food pantries; affordable housing; legislative issues, such as the Keep ME Home initiative and the proponents of each side of the Death with Dignity legislation; senior exercise and fitness and preventing and treating diabetes; hospice and end-of-life care; elder law issues; and looking at the broader demographic and social issues affecting seniors throughout our state. Throughout all of our work together, Mary Ellen has always shown herself to be a great human being … simple, practical, humble, and humane.
And in my view, this is how she has approached her illness and now her terminal diagnosis. She has shown great equanimity, living in the present moment, and making decisions about her treatment, and then her decision to stop treatment, with an open heart and practical presence of mind. She is choosing to live her final time with quality of life instead of chasing an ephemeral quantity of time.
Mary Ellen and I got on camera together to film a “Goodbye and Farewell” video to all of her friends here in Lincoln County.
Because of the poignancy of that show, I decided to set up a GoFundMe campaign to benefit Mary Ellen. I hope you can see your way to contributing a few dollars to help give Mary Ellen a beautiful send-off from Lincoln County, the place she loves as a home, and now which she must leave all too soon. She has benefited all the towns of Lincoln County greatly over the years. Let’s give her a nice send-off.
You can see Mary Ellen’s goodbye video and, only if you wish, make a small contribution to her benefit, at gofundme.com/the-mary-ellen-crowley-care-fund. A donation is not required to view the video.
(Steve Raymond is the director of admissions and community outreach at The Lincoln Home in Newcastle, and the producer and host of the Lincoln County Television show “Spotlight on Seniors.”)