The Big “C” Stands for Change and Community for This Bay Area Survivor

Pictured from the left, Marian Sparks, with Dorothy Gibbons and Dr. Dixie Melillo.

Pictured from the left, Marian Sparks, with Dorothy Gibbons and Dr. Dixie Melillo.

In the past five years, adapting to change has been the one constant in the life of Marian Sparks.

The Baytown resident went from married, insured and healthy to divorced, uninsured with a breast cancer diagnosis. From there she emerged as a business owner, philanthropist and survivor.

And, through it all, she was jumping out of planes.

She says she learned to face her cancer diagnosis in the same way she faced her fear of skydiving.

Having seen her mother face cancer at the age of 50, Marian was diligent in getting her annual screenings. Because of divorce, her sources for screenings were limited.  She discovered Methodist San Jacinto Hospital in Baytown had a grant to provide free screenings. When she was told that more tests were needed, she was referred to The Rose, a nonprofit breast health organization that serves nearly 35,000 women annually.

Learning she had cancer, she was concerned about not having the ability to cover the costs. That’s when Marian discovered her new doctor was not only a surgeon, but the Co-Founder of The Rose. Dr. Dixie Melillo introduced her to The Rose’s Patient Navigators.

Upon learning that Dr. Melillo had started The Rose – along with Co-Founder and CEO Dorothy Gibbons – to provide for all women to have access to care, regardless of their ability to pay, Marian committed to volunteering.

Marian Sparks was featured in a series of ads that began appearing nationwide last year.

Marian Sparks was featured in a series of ads that began appearing nationwide last year.

Deciding that skydiving could also be a means of fundraising, Marian established Jump for The Rose and annual events that draw hundreds of spectators and skydiving enthusiasts, raising more than $28,000 for uninsured women.

The Rose — currently with two locations and a mobile fleet extending to 25 counties — has served the Bay area for 27 years.  Last year, 9,571 Bay Area residents were provided screenings.

“Cancer is a devastating diagnosis and no one should hear it and feel alone,” noted Dorothy Gibbons.  The women in the Bay Area will know, just like Marian learned, that we are here for them.”

Gibbons praises the upcoming “Pinknic.”  This event is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 3, 1-4 p.m. at Carothers Coastal Gardens, 502 Pine Gully Rd, Seabrook, with music by Mickey Hobbs. For more, go to www.TheRose.org or call 281-484-4708.

The fourth Jump for The Rose is scheduled for Oct. 11-13 at Skydive Spaceland, 16111 FM 521, Rosharon. For more, visit Events at www.TheRose.org.

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