Four years ago, Mary Margaret Girty said an extra person named leukemia moved into her family’s Amarillo home. Chronic myelogenous leukemia, to be specific.
“We’ve learned to live with it the best we can,” Girty said. “Most days are good; some days I feel terrible, and we just deal with those days when they come along.”
Girty was 36 when she was diagnosed with CML, a slowly progressing leukemia marked by a high volume of white blood cells.
“The science behind it is actually fascinating. I mean, I’ve had to get nerdy about it to understand my own disease,” Girty said. “Something changed in my body, and my ninth and 22nd chromosomes — they have flip-flopped.”
The ninth and 22nd chromosomes’ ends break off and attach to the other in a person with CML. The modified 22nd chromosome is called Philadelphia Chromosome, which is commonly found in both chronic myelogenous leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“The day she got diagnosed, it was like, ‘I’m not going to show my weakness,’” said Girty’s husband, Darrell Girty.
Her persistence in life has not changed since the diagnosis, Darrell said, but he has noticed an increase in her ability to connect with others in their struggles.
“She’s also been able to tap into others’ feelings more,” Darrell said. “She’s always been great at that, but she gets emotionally involved with others and what’s happening. She has a real desire to help people with chronic illness … She’s a special lady.”
Between a full-time job as kids director for the Amarillo South campus of Hillside Christian Church and the full-time jobs of wife and mother, Mary is going back to school. She will graduate in May with a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Denver Seminary’s West Texas campus in Amarillo.
Mary plans to use her degree to work with others who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses or cancer because she…