Her ‘saving grace’: Bath rallies for cancer patient

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BATH — In perhaps the most difficult year of their lives, Shelly Daniels and her family have found the greatest outpouring of support from their neighbors.

Daniels, a registered nurse at the Togus veterans center in Augusta, was horrified to learn the first week in January that her mother and stepfather had been murdered in Florida. At the time, she was on her way home from having a biopsy done on a lump in her breast.

Daniels told her doctor two days later that it had been a terrible week and she was looking for some good news. Sadly, her doctor had none.

Thankfully, Daniels’ cancer was caught early, and her family has a strong track record of beating the disease, she said in an interview March 14. She had a bilateral mastectomy last month, since there was a strong chance the cancer could spread.

While Daniels recovers, waiting to learn if she must undergo chemotherapy, she has had to take time off work. With her husband, Adam, being a stay-at-home dad who underwent his third back surgery last year, the mother of four has been the family’s sole income provider.

To help the family, friends are hoping to raise money through a benefit dinner and concert Sunday, March 24. The event is hosted by Midcoast LifeChurch, where Daniels and her family are members, and will be held at the Bath Senior Activity Center, 45 Floral St.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. and the dinner and show begin at 3 p.m. Tickets for the concert and buffet-style roast pork dinner are $20, and concert-only admission is $15.

The church is picking up all the food costs, and two local bands are playing the event for free, said Amie Marzen, a friend and neighbor who is helping spread the word about the event.

The Expedition band plays a mix of folk and acoustic music from a variety of places and times, offering two-to-five-part harmonies.

Crystal Vision is a Fleetwood Mac tribute band that strives to stay true to the originals. Members Wanda and Mark McNeil helped Kim and Kevin Gray of LifeChurch plan the event.

Tickets can be purchased at danielsfamilybenefit.brownpapertickets.com and at Brackett’s Market, Mustard Seed Bookstore, Midcoast LifeChurch, William Raveis Real Estate, Now You’re Cooking, Pitter Patter, and Starlight Cafe.

‘Keep leaning, keep leaning’

With an avalanche of calamities at once – her mother-in-law also was in a car accident, and two of her children caught the flu – it has been Daniels’ religious faith that’s largely gotten her and her family through.

“I don’t know if I would be able to get through this without the faith that I have,” she said, noting that friends have reminded her to “keep leaning, keep leaning, keep leaning on God.”

The LifeChurch community has been an extension of her family. And so, Daniels is finding, is the greater Bath community.

“We have been humbled (by) the amount of support … from everybody to help us,” she said. “… And it’s been hard to accept, hard to accept.”

Daniels much prefers to help than to be helped. She and her family, who moved to Bath five years ago, volunteer at community events such as Heritage Days, aid in various public service events that include blood drives, and participate in several Chocolate Church Arts Center theater productions each year.

“She’s always the first one to sign up to help everybody … whether it’s through the church or the theater,” Marzen said.

Daniels also helped plan the first blood drive for Marzen’s daughter Madeline, who, in 2017 at the age of 4, was diagnosed with an inoperable and aggressive malignant brain tumor. Although the tumor was inoperable, Madeline was treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

She died unexpectedly, just four days after a concert at the Chocolate Church to help cover her family’s medical expenses. Blood drives continue to be held in her memory.

Grateful for Daniels’ help with that and other causes, Marzen said, “she’s always been paying it forward, so as difficult as it is to receive it, she’s already paid it forward tenfold.”

“I don’t think this will be the last of the helping efforts, as far as we’re concerned,” Marzen added.

‘My saving grace’

A campaign at gofundme.com/helping-hand-for-shelly-and-family started in January by a friend from work had raised $740 of a $5,000 goal as of March 15. Daniels didn’t feel right at the time accepting donations, but her friend told her, “I know, it feels weird, but you need it, you need it. Just take it,” she recalled.

Grateful for the prayers she’s received and meals brought to her home at a time when it’s difficult to cook, Daniels said, “it’s really hard being on this end of things, as a nurse, and as being one who likes to be involved in helping other people.”

She faces many unknowns. There’s the ongoing investigation into the murders which haunts her, and the hope of getting her mother’s remains back in order to honor her wishes to have her ashes spread in the ocean.

And closer to home, the 42-year-old realizes her relative youth means chances are high that her cancer could come back. She’s waiting to learn if she will need chemotherapy to stave off any recurrence; if so, that will mean more time off from work. Thankfully, she knows her job will be waiting for when she’s ready.

“That’s been my saving grace, by all means,” Daniels said. “The people in our lives have just risen up and showed us ‘we’re here for you.'”

With one surgery behind her, she will have to undergo another for reconstructive implants. Meanwhile, the removed tumor is being scored to determine its likelihood of coming back; a high score would necessitate chemotherapy.

“I don’t want to do chemo … as a nurse, I’ve seen (patients) be very, very sick,” she said. “I will if I have to, naturally, because I want to stay here.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Breast cancer patient Shelly Daniels, left, and her family will benefit from a dinner and concert March 24 at the Bath Senior Activity Center. Her family includes children Sadie, Jonathan and Molly, and husband Adam. Another son, Mikey, is not pictured.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.