Mary's Story, diagnosed at 36

Mary Bryant never intended to be a cancer survivor because, like most people, she never anticipated having cancer. One of six children born in Cleveland, Mary came to New York City, signed with the world famous Ford Modeling agency and embarked upon a successful and profitable career. Tall, lithe and beautiful, the picture of perfect health, Bryant started running to keep in shape and eventually became a marathoner.

Dressing for a date one day in early June 1998, Mary was looking in the mirror when her phone rang. Bryant was stunned to hear her friend Diane Erickson had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mary shuddered. A few months earlier she had found a lump in her breast and simply thought it would go away. It hadn't. Reality hit home and Bryant knew it was time to act.

In the doctor's office, after experiencing her first mammogram, Mary was told she had a seven centimeter tumor and had no choice but a mastectomy. Two weeks later on June 15th, 1998, Bryant had the operation and along with her breast, 28 lymph nodes were removed.

Surviving is one thing, thriving is another. As part of her recovery, Mary focused on her career. Rather than dwelling on what she could not do, Bryant embraced opportunity and said, "what's the best way to do this?" Two weeks after her operation, "surgically altered" Mary Bryant went to work as a Seventh Avenue fit model where clothes are fashioned on her body.

Less than three weeks after leaving the hospital, Bryant delivered a motivational speech to over 3,000 people in Phoenix. Mary was not only speaking about self-esteem, she was a courageous demonstration of it. Bryant received a standing ovation from an audience unaware of her personal struggle. It wasn't long before she felt ready to share her whole story.

"Because I can" is the motto Mary lives by. She couldn't run for six weeks after her surgery, but as time passed, Bryant worked her way back to running in Central Park, the Mecca for New York City marathoners. When she could run, the miles were a struggle. But in November 1998, six days after her fifth round of chemotherapy, Mary Bryant finished her fourth marathon. For that achievement Mary was awarded the Female Achilles Athlete of the Year by the Achilles Track Club. Since that time, Runners World magazine has named Mary one of the five most inspirational runners of the year.

Passionately single, Bryant travels worldwide as a motivational speaker. Though she?s won several awards, Mary's interests go beyond herself and her cancer. She?s the executive producer of Don's Story: The Smile of An Angel, a documentary about her oldest brother, his daily life as a quadriplegic and how the family has adjusted. Bryant also coached a team of seven wheelchair athletes called "Don's Team" in the 1998 New York City Marathon. All seven finished the race. Bryant Enterprises has expanded to include society events and special projects. From educational seminars to not-for-profit benefits, she helps others party with purpose.

Bryant underwent reconstructive surgery in January 1999. She's working on a book, Underneath My Clothes, talking about cancer, being single, the pressures of appearance, and feeling fat; sharing her way of approaching life's challenges to develop inner and outer beauty. With her final reconstructive surgery in July 1999, Mary Bryant recovered just in time to run the toughest marathon of her life.

"Giving up will never get you to the finish line you've got to just keep going."

And Mary Bryant continues to push forward every day.