The Blog first introduces us to Mara in August 2007, when she reports "straight from the horse's mouth" that she has been evacuated from her USAID post in Amman, Jordan to the Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York for treatment after MRI tests showed she had metastatic melanoma cancer lesions (tumors) on multiple sites in her brain. The Blog entries and the stories told by her family and friends at her memorial services around the world attest to a life lived fully, with generosity, compassion and joy. From the accounts of her birth in Germany, through her escapades at school, her adventures in the Peace Corps, her battle with virulent breast cancer at the age of 32, and the international challenges she met working in Mercy Corps and USAID, you will find yourself laughing and crying, unable to put the book down.
Mara lived life to the fullest. She was only 37 when she died, but she accomplished as much as most do in 90 years. Mara's upbeat attitude and that of her world-wide web of family and friends enabled her to pursue the lifestyle she wanted, allowing her to enjoy her life to the last day. Many of the contributors to the blog as well as the medical and health professionals who have read it recommend this book to people facing tough cancer and life-style decisions. Mara's example and her positive outlook are certain to help cancer patients aspire to a quality of life they might not have thought possible.
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About the Author
By the time she was 7 she had spent time in Nicosia, Cyprus and later in Chile, where her grandfather was US Ambassador. She lived for brief periods in Merida, Mexico, Kassel/Bonn and Berlin, Germany, helping to rebuild villages after hurricanes, experiencing the nuclear fall-out from Chernobyl and witnessing first hand "the Wall" coming down in Berlin and the "Velvet Revolution" in Prague.
Her formal education and degrees came from the University of Wisconsin/Madison, and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), but her informal education was from her friends and her work. She worked for Congressman Tony Hall heading up his "gleaning" program; taught English for the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, then at a commercial school in Istanbul; worked in Germany on a Bosh fellowship at the Berlin Aspen Institute in a leadership role recruiting and training young leaders in the emerging Eastern European countries; and continued her development and peace building work in Amsterdam with an Eastern European Congressional training program.
While working for Mercy Corps on "democracy building," she won a fierce battle against virulent breast cancer. Moving to USAID (United States Agency for International Development) as Director of Civil Society, she oversaw and visited projects from Eastern Europe to the Philippines. Here she met, David Mees, the Cultural Attaché at the American Embassy, Amman, Jordan and moved, a year later to a USAID job in Amman, heading democracy-building projects. Here she had two of the best years of her life despite being diagnosed with melanoma and commuting every six weeks to Sloan Kettering in New York for treatment.
Mara died November 4, 2007. In her memory, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure created the Mara Fund (a pre-curser to their Global Promise Fund), a one time effort to target under-privileged communities in less-developed countries where shame is the major obstacle to early detection and treatment of breast cancer -- the type of activity Mara had supported in the places she had been active.