Mary Toennis

Thanks to Hoxworth blood donors, I'm still here. Thanks to your blood donation, you are giving others more time to do the things that they enjoy. You'll be their hero.

Mary Toennis Cancer Survivor

Since 2018, Mary Toennis, a devoted mother of two has been in the relentless fight against cancer. Over the past five years, her life has been a whirlwind of chemotherapy, surgeries, and crucial blood transfusions. Through it all, Mary's message remains unwavering: she is profoundly grateful for the Hoxworth blood donors who have been a beacon of hope during the most difficult challenges of her life.

Mary Toennis  with her husband and two kids

Mary Toennis with her husband and two kids.

A Mother's Love and Unwavering Courage

Mary’s favorite role in life is being a mother to two adorable kids, Ben and Maddie. "It's non-stop, but such a blessing," she says with a warm smile. Apart from her family, Mary's heart belongs to the stables, where she has been riding horses since she was a little girl. Her favorite companion there is an Amish Draft horse named Lullaby, and even after a recent surgery left her unable to ride, she continues to visit the stables for therapeutic walks with the horses.

Mary has spent many years working in oncology at the University of Cincinnati, where she enjoyed being a part of patients' lives and assisting them in their battles. Her departure from this meaningful work in December 2022 was a difficult decision, but her health demanded her attention.

Mary in the hospital pictured with her children

The Diagnosis and the Fight

Mary's life took a dramatic turn in January 2018 when she received a diagnosis of metastatic rectal cancer. Her initial reaction was a mix of shock and fear, but her family, including her husband Matt, and her young children, became her motivation to overcome this adversity.

Mary noticed a swollen lymph node in her groin while she was 8 months pregnant and raised concern with her doctor, leading to a biopsy after childbirth. "I remembered what my doctor was wearing, the room and room number. The first, second, and third person that came running to hug me," she recalls.

With a diagnosis in hand, Mary embarked on a challenging journey of treatment, including two rounds of chemotherapy and daily radiation for six weeks. Her weight dropped significantly, and she experienced severe side effects, including second and third-degree burns to her pelvis. Her counts plummeted, and some doctors worried about her survival. Eventually, her hemoglobin dropped to levels that led to Mary needing blood transfusions to stabilize her condition. "I'll never forget crying out of gratitude," she says, reflecting on the moment when a local stranger's blood coursing through her veins gave her hope.

In total, Mary required four transfusions to bounce back, and she cherishes the Hoxworth blood donors who provided her with the gift of life. "Someone, somewhere, made a decision to donate, their blood made it to me, and I'm going to make it. And I did, for four years," she reflects.

Cancer Patients Require Blood Products

Unfortunately, cancer has a way of returning, and it has struck Mary twice. She has undergone multiple surgeries, including a grueling 12-hour operation involving four surgeons. Currently, she's fighting through one more round chemotherapy and praying for the best. “What many may not realize is that chemotherapy significantly affects hemoglobin and white blood cell counts, often leading cancer patients to require blood products,” she explains. 

Make a Difference and Save Lives

Mary's message is a call to action for all those who can donate blood. She believes that giving blood is one of the most meaningful ways to make a difference and save lives. "A needle stick is the only price to pay," she reassures. “Maybe you’re concerned about the needle or maybe you don't have time, but think about this; the patient is also worried about pain and if they have much more time.”

Mary emphasizes that every donation counts, and it goes directly to someone in need, possibly someone just like her.

Mary Toennis on her final day of chemotherapy

Hoxworth Blood Donors Giving Patients More Time

In Mary's words, "Thanks to Hoxworth blood donors, I'm still here. Thanks to your blood donation, you are giving others more time to do the things that they enjoy. You'll be their hero."

Mary completed her final round of chemotherapy in October 2023. For those who choose to donate, her heartfelt gratitude is unwavering. She concludes, "I truly appreciate your donation, and who knows, I might be the life you save."

Live-saving Impact of Generosity

From Mary and her family, and countless individuals across greater Cincinnati, there is a profound appreciation for those who choose to donate blood. Mary's story is a testament to the power of resilience, the strength of the human spirit, and the life-saving impact of a simple act of generosity.

Blood donors are local heroes for those who are battling cancer. Be a hero for someone like Mary and schedule your blood donation below.