Tennessee’s First Lady Fights Cancer

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Marie Lee

By Robin Smith 

“Cancer.” No one wants to hear that in a doctor’s visit. Yet Tennessee’s First Lady, Maria Lee, heard it and is now fighting not just the dread, but the disease.

Through a simple statement on Friday morning, Aug. 26, Governor Bill Lee announced, “Maria and I have learned that she has lymphoma and will begin treatment immediately. While this news is unexpected, her prognosis is good and it is treatable. Maria and I deeply appreciate prayers for healing. We are hopeful and will share more in the days ahead.”

What is lymphoma?

According to MD Anderson Cancer Center,  lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is the network of vessels, tissues and organs that work in tandem to fight bacterial infection and any foreign attack, such as viruses for example. In addition to serving as part of your immune system, the lymphatic system maintains your body’s fluid levels by returning excess fluids back into the circulatory system and removes wastes. 

There are different types and subtypes of lymphoma as classified by cellular distinctions, presentations and symptoms. Essentially, lymphoma is a cancer that is also treated as a immunosuppressive condition.

The prognosis can be very good for patients depending on the type of lymphoma, its staging or spread and the response to therapy. The treatment may include radiation, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and biological medications which boost the immune system, or any combination supported by research.

The actual cause of lymphomas is unknown. But there are a few things known in this case.

First, as noted by Governor Lee’s statement, this couple believes in the power of prayer and healing works alongside the medical treatment that Maria Lee will undergo. 

Second, this type of cancer has a robust response rate to the researched treatments for patients. Finally, First Lady Maria Lee is a fighter whose desire to serve will bring good from this life event.

Maria Lee helping with tornado clean up.

Whether it’s been pulling debris from a tornado’s aftermath, serving meals to Tennesseans in need or lending a hand to build homes for the working poor, Maria Lee has personified today’s definition of being a Tennessee Volunteer. Within the first few months of Bill Lee’s Administration in 2019, the First Lady and former elementary school teacher launched Tennessee Serves, her initiative as the vehicle “to transform our state through service.” And those are not just empty words or lip service paid for a photo opportunity. 

Life events, such as cancer, frame things beyond the partisan and the political. As Tennessee’s First Lady mounts her fight against cancer, we should serve in her place as hands, arms, feet and smiles to make our communities stronger.

Also, accept the appreciation of Bill and Maria Lee–Tennesseans who believe in more than just politics–by saying prayers for healing and well-being for the First Lady and all who fight to endure illness.