In her continuing battle with cancer and in her efforts to educate others about early detection, Kathy Markus received a gift from friends she never knew she had.
Markus (Mt. Vernon) recently was the beneficiary of a fund-raising effort by students in Rend Lake College Art Professor Therese Melena's Art Appreciation and Art History classes. They assembled and auctioned several gift baskets, ultimately raising $969 to help Markus with her bills. The students also gathered a sizeable stack of toys and other goodies which they gave to Markus for the holiday season. She and her husband are raising their two grandchildren.
Markus is battling Stage III breast cancer and has no health insurance. Each semester, the art students raise money through these basket auctions, and this year they chose to donate their proceeds to Markus. Among the offerings this year was a basket donated by Continental Tire North America, which included a set of four tires, an oil change and more. The various baskets centered on themes such as candy, wine, facials and others.
She never saw it coming.
Markus said she was surprised and moved to receive the donation, which was raised and given to her by students she'd never met.
She said she had been through a particularly tough week when she received an e-mail from Melena asking Markus to stop by her office. When she arrived, Melena presented her with an envelope containing the donated money.
"This is amazing," a teary-eyed Markus said when she arrived last week to find more donations stacked on a table in the art department. "I thank God for all of these kids."
Markus plans to graduate this spring from Rend Lake College with occupational certificates from the Medical Transcriptionist, Medical Transcription Associate and Microsoft User programs. She currently works as a Certified Nurse Assistant.
She said part of the reason she has been able to do so well in her fight against cancer is being in college. In addition to raising her grandchildren, Markus has become a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and the Little Egypt Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. In what little free time she has, she works with the Cub Scouts in Dix.
Recent action by the state ensures that all uninsured women between the ages of 40 and 54 will receive free mammograms. Markus' message is that early detection is the key.