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Author tells cancer story with humor

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By Bryan Marshall

A routine mammogram in April 2007 changed everything for Mary Beth Hall.

That is when she found out she had breast cancer, a disease she was all too familiar with.

“It was very scary because my mom died of breast cancer 11 years ago,” Hall said. “It was important that they found it early. That basically saved my life. I was getting mammograms every year like you’re supposed to.”

Hall, guidance counselor at Grant County High School, had surgery to remove the cancer, followed by aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

She now considers herself “healed.”

Having been in the education field for 22 years, Hall wanted to teach others about her experience.

Her first published book, “Lessons from a Bald Chick: How to help yourself or someone you know through cancer,” recently has taken the nation by storm.

“It gained national attention right away,” Hall said. “Cancer patients and survivors have thanked me for putting in words what they could not. Families, friends and co-workers of cancer patients have thanked me for telling them what to do and not do. People say it has brought them into a better relationship with God.”

The goal of the book is to teach people what to say and not say and what to do and not do when they know someone who has cancer, Hall said.

It also provides tips for cancer patients going through what she did.

With chapters titled “When in Doubt, Party” and “God Did Not Create the Scale, Another Male Did,” the book obviously has a humorous side when discussing a deadly disease.

“It’s a funny book with a serious message,” Hall said. “There’s humor involved to take away some of the fear that’s associated with cancer. It is very scary. I wanted to soften the blow.”

The idea for the book originated after Hall’s best friend unsuccessfully looked for a book to teach her how to help Hall through the experience.

“She couldn’t find a book to tell her what to do to help a friend through cancer,” Hall said. “She did a remarkable job even without the book. When I got better last year, I sat down and wrote that book.”

A self-described “writer at heart,” Hall already had experience writing education columns for the Grant County News and the Kentucky Post for 12 years.

Since the book’s release, Hall has had numerous speaking engagements for groups as large as the American Cancer Society.

She recently met with “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts, who also battled breast cancer, after a taping of the show.

Hall may speak soon in front of thousands for the Brooklyn Tabernacle women’s group.

The local community will have a chance to pick up a signed copy of “Lessons from a Bald Chick” for a reduced price of $21 during a July 23 event sponsored by Grant County Community Education.

Light refreshments will be served as Hall reads selections from the book from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Grant County Board of Education office.

The book also can be purchased online at Amazon.com or other Web sites or ordered at area bookstores.

Hall donates the proceeds from “Lessons from a Bald Chick” to those battling cancer through her Bald Chick Ministry.

She hopes to write another book about education when she can find the time.

Hall said she is still processing all that has happened in the past couple years.

She found writing the book a cathartic experience that she hopes others can learn from as well.

“It helped me to continue to process it,” Hall said. “It’s completely traumatic. You don’t get over it when the cancer is over. When your body is finally healing, your mind has to catch up to it. Writing about it did help me to heal emotionally. A lot of people who read the book say that they laugh until they cry and they cry until they laugh.”