‘Be of service’

Breast cancer survivor Mary Earp serves her community through the Brunswick Pink Angels, an organization that supports women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Journey to Survivorship

Mary Earp is a breast cancer survivor and lifelong resident of Brunswick County. She beat cancer in 2008 and has made it her mission to be an advocate for breast cancer patients and breast healthcare ever since. 

As part of that commitment, Earp, now 84, launched the Brunswick Pink Angels, a group that supports women diagnosed with breast cancer by providing them comfort bags when they begin treatment.

Her Diagnosis

Earp was receiving yearly mammograms for decades before her diagnosis in 2007. She was diligent about screenings because of her extensive family history of cancer.

“I am one of five children. We all had cancer at different times — breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. I am the only survivor,” Earp said. “Seeing my sisters’ journey with breast cancer was heartbreaking. That kept me on top of my annual mammograms. Those exams are the reason we caught my cancer early. It increased my chance of survival.”

Her Treatment

Earp was treated at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where she received 24 rounds of radiation. From the start, she set her sights on avoiding chemotherapy if at all possible.

She communicated this to her oncologist, who told Earp, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Luckily, she never had to have chemotherapy. Earp completed radiation treatment and was told she was cancer-free.

Over the next year, she took some time to recharge and regain her strength. 

“I was very weak after treatment, but I slowly became active again,” Earp said. “During that time, I thought about how all the gifts we are given as breast cancer patients, and how every woman should have access to them.”

This was the beginning of what would become The Brunswick Pink Angels.

Her Movement 

About a year after being told she was cancer-free, Earp channeled her newfound energy into spearheading an organization called The Brunswick Pink Angels. The organization’s mission is to provide every woman who is treated for breast cancer in Brunswick County with a comfort bag that includes the essential items and accessories they need as they begin treatment.

“I had spoken with so many women who had been gifted different accessories to help them feel more comfortable during treatment sessions,” Earp said. “I thought, ‘Well, every woman who is fighting breast cancer in Brunswick County should have these items.’”

Each pink bag has an angel printed on it and includes a pillow, an inspirational book, a blanket, cozy socks, a knitted cap and a cloth cap — all essential items for patients receiving cancer treatment. It’s a small gesture, but an important one, she said.

In 2014, Earp reached out to Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation and formed a partnership between the Brunswick Pink Angels and the foundation, giving the group nonprofit status.

“It means so much to these women to receive these gifts. Each woman embarks on her cancer journey with varying levels of support and resources,” Earp said. “We are so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish alongside Novant Health Foundation.”

Her Philosophy

A long life and a journey through cancer have given Earp valuable and profound perspective. 

“If you don’t give back, you’re just taking up space,” she said. “Someone helped you. Find a little bit of time to help someone else. Whether it be a stranger, a neighbor or a family member— be of service.”

Give the gift of a mammogram today.

You can be of service to women in your community by making a contribution through Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation. A gift of $250 is all it takes to provide a lifesaving mammogram to women in need.

Donate now