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Leukemia survivor hopes to go bald again

Sue Mercer-Cory will celebrate two decades as a cancer survivor with a razor.

Twenty years ago, a bone marrow transplant saved her life from leukemia. To celebrate, the Troutdale resident hopes to raise $10,245 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Sue Mercer-Cory of Troutdale hopes to raise $10,245 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“I wanted to do something special this year since it’s my 20-year anniversary since my bone marrow transplant from my leukemia,” she said. “I wanted to give back again and it was like, well how do I do it? What can I do above and beyond the other four that I’ve ever done?”

The answer — go bald again.

“It’s the ultimate thing that happens when you have full-body radiation or chemo,” explained Mercer-Cory. “You lose your hair.”

Mercer-Cory raises money for the LLS through Team in Training. TNT helps people fund raise for blood cancer research through races and marathons.

Troutdale resident Marsha DeJesus met Mercer-Cory while preparing for a marathon in Anchorage through TNT. They’ve been walking partners ever since. The pair have done four races together and the Portland Marathon on Oct. 4 will be their fifth and likely last race.

The two women have been through a lot together throughout their years of walking half marathons. Back in 2010, Mercer-Cory had a heart attack before their race and wasn’t supposed to participate in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco. DeJesus and the team snuck her in around the last half mile so she got to finish the race.

When Mercer-Cory told her about going bald again, DeJesus’ immediate reaction was, “I’m not doing that,” followed quickly with admiration for her friend.

“She’s kind and considerate. Considering everything she’s gone through she’s never angry or bitter,” DeJesus said. “I really, truly admire her.”CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SUE MERCER-CORY - Sue Mercer-Cory, Marsha DeJesus and Kathy Kelley after crossing the finish line of a half-marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.

DeJesus is one of many people singing Mercer-Cory’s praises.

“She’s a very caring and giving person. She always is, even when she went through the bone marrow transplant,” said her husband, David Cory. “We were just amazed that she was always up.”

As for her recent decision to go bald again, Cory is supportive but still feels a sad twinge when he remembers his wife’s experience battling cancer 20 years ago.

“It takes me back. Some of what she went through was ungodly, so some of the ugly thoughts come up,” he said. “But for the most part I’m proud.”CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SUE MERCER-CORY - Sue Mercer-Cory after shaving her head the first time 20 years ago. If she meets her fundraising goal for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society she plans do it again.

Mercer-Cory has had several medical issues since recovering from cancer. She developed cataracts, had a hip replacement and suffered a heart attack. Yet her outlook remains positive.

“I keep saying that they’re going to make me a bionic woman yet because I’m still here,” she said. “I’m still moving so let’s just pay it forward and do something.”

If Mercer-Cory raises $10,245 by Monday, Sept. 28, she will shave her head that night at Cascade Athletic Club. TJ Sheets, her hairdresser for more than 30 years, will be doing the honors.

“Her shaving her head is almost a celebration of her victory,” Sheets explained. “She’s celebrating her victory, which is really fun.”

Sheets has been with Mercer-Cory before, during and after cancer. Now she’ll help her celebrate 20 years in remission with a head shave.

“I just shaved the head of a very dear friend of mine due to melanoma cancer and she just passed after a year and a half battle,” Sheets said. “So I’m also shaving her head for Sue but in my heart I’m also honoring Kristen my friend who just passed to cancer. It’s bittersweet, really emotional.”

Mercer-Cory is also shaving her head for a friend, of sorts — the bone marrow donor who saved her life. The donor was inspired to help when his niece, Katie, had leukemia. Mercer-Cory never forgot her.

“She passed away at age 12,” Mercer-Cory teared up as she speaks of her fellow cancer patient. “Katie is my angel. She’s always watching me and giving me strength. Without her, he would not have gotten on the registry and given me my second chance. Katie is a very special angel.”

Mercer-Cory is close to her fundraising goal. So far she has raised more than $8,000 and has over a month to finish. The ambitious $10,245 goal represents half of the money that she has raised for LLS in her last four marathons combined.

“Hopefully the money that I raise will help somebody else,” she said.