While hundreds of Erath County residents joined together Friday night to participate in Relay for Life, one Stephenville resident laid in a hospital bed in Weatherford, her body fighting to recover from a cancer that nearly consumed her.
But that didn’t stop Bea Marin from talking about the dark journey she is traveling. Showing a spirit stronger than the disease, Marin explained how medical treatments, friends and community support can literally save a person’s life.
Marin was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the stomach, or stomach cancer, in December 2007. When her doctor asked her if she wanted to undergo surgery, Marin with her strong background in nursing, didn’t have to think long. Only days later, she underwent surgery to remove her stomach, spleen, gallbladder and part of her pancreas. After her organs had been removed, she was told that she was cancer free.
To guarantee that there were no cancerous cells still thriving within her, doctors suggested chemotherapy. Marin underwent five treatments, a process she said nobody should ever have to endure. “It was brutal,” Marin said. “I was very sick.”
At one point during the chemotherapy, she was admitted to Harris Methodist Erath County Hospital.
“When I was admitted, I was almost dead,” Marin said. “Everything was so critically abnormal.”
She stayed close to home under the care of nurses and physicians at HMEC for 15 days and then returned home to continue treatment.
For a woman passionate about health and fitness, who always eats healthy and watches her weight, a woman who had never spent one day in the hospital as a patient, the journey has been the hardest thing she has ever had to do.
Her life has been more than challenges and trials, but a constant battle to stay on top in a world that often brings people down.
She lost her mother when she was only eight years old and her father when she was 18. With nine siblings, several younger than her, the parentless brood learned to do things for themselves with the help of their sister. Although the loss of her father was a devastating blow, she pressed on, found a way to put herself through college and even helped her siblings through higher education. Marin obtained her degree from Texas Women’s University in a world alive with prejudice, a world that offered little support for a Hispanic woman trying to make it on her own and better herself. Many doubted she could or would do it, but she did. According to her sister-in-law, also named Bea Marin, all nine Marin children obtained their degrees.
From college, Marin began her career in nursing and worked in a civilian hospital for a year or two and then joined the United States Air Force.
For 26 years she served her country, including about two years in Vietnam. Close friend and Stephenville resident Joyce Pollan said that Marin never talked much of the war.
“She was in the heat of the battle, serving in the fields,” Pollan said. “She cared for American soldiers but also helped heal the Viet Kong.”
Pollan said that Marin was one of the first flight nurses to go to Vietnam and bring back American prisoners of war, she made several return trips freeing her fellow Americans.
“She was on the flight that brought back POW James Stockdale,” Pollan said. “He was Ross Perot’s running mate in the 1992 presidential campaign.”
After retiring from the Air Force, Marin rejoined the civilian workforce and continued in the nursing field. She went on to obtain more than one master’s degree and was hired as the chief nurse executive for HMEC in 1994. Pollan worked alongside Marin for almost seven years as the hospital’s assistant director of nurses.
In 2000, Marin signed on at Tarleton State University, where she is currently a part of the nursing faculty and teaches management and leadership to senior nursing students.
“She has high expectations of her students,” Pollan said. “She expects excellence and she does her best to help them achieve it.”
Marin has always been an active member of the community. She served three terms on the Stephenville City Council and opened her own business, The Bakery, on Lingleville Road.
Pollan said when she opened The Bakery, Marin was fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“She had always dreamed of having a Hispanic bakery,” Pollan said. “She worked very hard to keep it going. She would put in a full work day at Tarleton and then go to her bakery and keep it open until 8 or 9 p.m.,” Pollan said. “She even worked Saturdays, she felt that she had to be open nights and weekends to serve the hardworking Hispanic community.”
Doing things to serve others has been and continues to be a way of life for Marin. She is involved in many service organizations and is always only a phone call away when someone needs a helping hand. Although she has fought a hard battle and there is still some struggle to come, Marin is armed with what she needs to win the fight.
Pollan remembered the day Marin called to say that she finally knew what had been ailing her.
“She said that she found out that she had stomach cancer and I was horrified, I asked her how she felt about the diagnosis and what was she going to do,” Pollan said. “She said to me that she was glad the doctor knew what it was. She was ready to begin treatment so she could get well.”
In talking with friends, family and colleges of Marin one thing is constant. She is a strong, caring, faithful, woman never too busy to lend a helping hand. She loves her work, she loves her students and she loves life. She will not loose this fight, the fight of and for her life.
“She is one of the strongest women I have ever met and she always has a positive outlook,” Pollan said. “Her desire is to be well by July so she can get back to teaching, her true love.”
Marin said that the community she loves has been awesome through her illness and said that although her body has been ravaged by the disease and its treatment, she has found the love and support she needs from her fellow nurses and her friends here at home. She is confident that love and kindness can cure anything.
“When someone is diagnosed with something so serious, so painful we as a community need to support them,” Marin said. “It is a brutal journey that nobody, who has not lived it, can understand. As a community, we need to form a circle around these people, uplift them and give them total support.”