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Grantee Story: Marcella Starr Barnett

Life before breast cancer

In 2008, Marcella Starr Barnett was working full time, raising her two children, volunteering and learning country line dance.

In March of that year, her life changed forever. She was diagnosed with Triple Negative Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Coincidentally, her parents moved to Colorado from Cleveland, Ohio to allow Marcella to assist with their care. Little did they know, they would end up taking care of Marcella during her treatment instead. “At first, my husband and I just cried together, and we felt terribly helpless, like I might die the next day. Then we learned about Sense of Security.”

Marcella had a lumpectomy and four months of chemotherapy and radiation. She volunteered for a long-term drug trial which helped keep the cancer at bay. In between the diagnosis and surgery, she attended her first Sue Miller Day of Caring Conference where she learned about resources for coping with the disease and began to see that she was not alone in her fight.

Marcella’s nurse navigator referred her to Sense of Security after her diagnosis; she was on the waiting list for most of the year. Eventually, she received three months of grocery gift cards, which helped her get nutritious meals when she felt like eating. “During treatment I couldn’t eat much because everything tasted like a rusty spoon. I relied on a daily Wendy’s Frosty® to numb my taste buds.” she said.

Dear Grandmama  

Over the years, Marcella encouraged her children to keep in touch with their grandparents back in Ohio. Unbeknownst to her, Marcella’s mother kept over 100 handwritten letters from her six grandchildren for more than three decades. Marcella remembers, “My mother gave me the letters in May 2012; it took my son and I more than a year to figure out how to self-publish them within a book. On Mother’s Day of 2014, we presented Dear Grandmama, A Collection of Love Through the Decades, to her. My mother had no idea that we had put together a book of the grandchildren's letters, and was both surprised and thrilled to receive it."

Paying it forward

Today, Marcella is retired and still cares for her 92 year-old mother and helps with looking after her 3 year-old granddaughter. She enjoys serving on the City of Aurora, (CAC) Citizen Advisory Committee for Community Development and Housing. To pay it forward, she volunteered as a model at the 2015 Day of Caring event and attends monthly survivor support group meetings. "Sense of Security was the silent assistance you hoped you would never need, and I give thanks every day that they were there to help pick up the pieces when things seemed bleak."