Boonsboro woman's faith grows in difficult times

August 31, 2010|By JANET HEIM
  • Marilyn Blank, of Boonsboro, shares her personal journey in the book "Have Faith: Live It, Speak It, Believe It & Survive."
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO -- Marilyn Blank's demeanor is calm and content, and she admits she's in a good place right now.

The scars on her face, neck, torso and leg, though, are an outward sign that there's more to her story.

"At 50, I find myself starting over, but I have the most important things," Blank said.

Blank, who has lived in Boonsboro for 23 years, details her personal journey in a book called "Have Faith: Live It, Speak It, Believe It & Survive." She will share her inspirational story Thursday at the Sharpsburg Public Library at 7 p.m.

Blank has two children from her first marriage and is remarried with two more children.

She and her second husband adopted a 5-year-old boy who has special needs and his 7-year-old half sister, for whom they provided foster care.

In September 2006, their 17-year-old son, Joshua Blank, died while helping his mother with a yard sale during Boonesborough Days. He collapsed and she administered CPR, but she was not able to revive him. Doctors never determined a cause of death, she said.


Meanwhile, Blank developed a lump on her nose, started having nosebleeds and felt tired. It was easy to write off the symptoms to stress after her son's death.

After being misdiagnosed, Blank learned she had a rare cancer in her nasal area. Her nose was removed during surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in April 2007, and eventually reconstructed.

Blank said she stopped counting after 19 surgeries. She had daily chemotherapy and radiation treatments in Baltimore.

Her cousin by marriage, Kim Hildebrand of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was her driver and emotional support through it all, she said.

"Kim's my angel that always had my back," Blank said.

The two would march into the hospital arm in arm, greeting everyone they passed. Their confidence was a facade to hide the fear they were feeling, Blank said.

It was also an opportunity for them to reach out to other patients -- many they now consider lifelong friends -- and share a positive attitude.

Determined to beat cancer, Blank said she decided she wasn't going to lose her appetite or her sense of taste during treatments. After each treatment, she and Hildebrand celebrated by eating out, and both admitted to gaining weight during Blank's treatments.

"You can either become a victim or become a survivor. I decided to become a survivor," Blank said.

Blank found her faith growing stronger as she endured more hardships. She did not grow up in a church-going family, but she found herself praying for God to guide her life.

"There was so much good. We never did without," she said.

Even though she was not a church member, parishioners at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church began delivering meals to her family and taking care of the Blanks' children, long before she was physically able to attend church there. Church members also helped her get to Baltimore for treatments.

"They were awesome," Blank said.

Her son's death and her health issues took a toll on her marriage of more than 20 years. She and her second husband separated in April 2009, and are in the process of getting a divorce.

She left behind a four-bedroom home, swimming pool and basketball court, and moved into a two-bedroom mobile home with her children, now 8 and 10.

Through it all, Blank has credited her faith, friends and church family for getting her through each day.

Her book ends with the line, "I am still looking up!" in bold letters, with the news that cancer recurred in her neck. Her second bout of treatments ended in July.

"This whole thing has taught me to appreciate the little things," Blank said.

For more information about Blank's program at Sharpsburg Public Library, call 301-432-8825. Her book will be available for purchase and signing at the library Thursday and on Sept. 18, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

If you go ...

What: Marilyn Blank shares her inspirational story

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: Sharpsburg Public Library, 106 E. Main St.

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