Daily Point of Light # 2746 Aug 13, 2004

One-tenth of all Americans will die of cancer, unless something is done to find a cure for this disease. According to the American Cancer Society, many types of cancer can be prevented through healthy nutrition and lifestyle habits. Education and research are the keys to prevention and, eventually, the eradication of cancer deaths.

Even though her father’s mother and father died of cancer, Marliese Thomas never considered cancer a viable threat to her mother’s security. On April 4, 2002, her mother called her at college and said two words – breast cancer. Just four days later, Marliese’s mother underwent major surgery involving a right mastectomy and reconstruction. The entire family had questions, and the American Cancer Society’s reputation was such that it was the first place Marliese looked for information. During the following two years, her mother would undergo chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, radiation therapy, and operation on a surgical hernia. Recently, Marliese’s uncle was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was isolated and removed.

In Spring 2003, Marliese returned to full-time status at Loyola University New Orleans. She found ways to work with the American Cancer Society, giving to others as they had given to her family. Her studies in public relations were invaluable, as she interned in the Kenner, La., office, volunteering more than 150 hours contacting local media about events and writing articles published in Health & Fitness magazine and the New Orleans Health Club Punch newsletter. An article about her involved with the Miss America system and community efforts, “Beneath the Crown,” was printed in Affaire de Coeur and Turn for the Judges, both national publications.

Marliese is also a trained spokesperson and community lobbyist for the American Cancer Society. She testified before the New Orleans City Council and remained in touch with her local representative, encouraging him to support a bill to restore local control of non-smoking areas. Louisiana taxpayers spend more than $1 million annually on healthcare for affected by smoked, either directly or secondhand, when less than 25% of the state population actually uses tobacco. As a result of Marliese’s lobbying efforts, the Louisiana State Hosue of Representatives passed an act allowing parishes to decide individually about making establishments non-smoking, except businesses where liquor is served. Marliese is also a guest speaker at civic meetings, schools and businesses, presenting a program of healthy living to prevent cancer development.

In October 2003, Marliese was a volunteer and team leader for the greater New Orleans Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Her team, the Theta Psi chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Sorority for Women, was invited to sing the national anthem and raised pledges in honor of Marliese’s mother. Not only was the cancer survivor there to see them perform, she was able to walk the entire course with them. In May 2004, mother and daughter will be teammates with other family in the Cullman, Ala., Relay for Life. Marliese is currently seeking full-time employment with the American Cancer Society, not only to continue the work she has begun, but also to make her impact exponentially greater and long lasting.