You could say divine providence brought Dr. Michael and Cheryl Marceau together. UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus is where they met a little more than four years ago. It’s a place where their story of hope begins, where their lives have been saved, and where they continue to serve others. Each year since their marriage in 2015, their Christmas gift to each other includes a generous contribution to support the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport. Their story and its connection to the hospital goes back a long way.
Cheryl was born at Divine Providence, when the maternity unit was on the fifth floor. Forty-six years later, in 2008, Divine Providence is where she received lifesaving radiation treatment to destroy her thyroid gland when Graves disease, a thyroid condition, caused her blood pressure to skyrocket, pushing her to the brink of a massive stroke.
Dr. Marceau received lifesaving treatments at Divine Providence, too. Twice. He was diagnosed with lymphoma for the first time in December 1997, less than a year after coming to Williamsport to work as a behavioral health physician. From September 1998 to February 1999, he received chemotherapy treatments, which put him in remission for nearly 10 years, in the old Cancer Center located in the Divine Providence basement.
His cancer returned in June 2008, just a few years, after his first wife passed away in 2003. His co-workers and the staff at the Cancer Center made sure he wouldn’t face his second cancer battle alone. Because his office was also in Divine Providence, his co-workers could visit with him while he received his treatments once a week for four weeks at six-month intervals over the next 18 months. The extra support kept his spirits up.
“A positive attitude helps your immune system, and that’s a boost to get you through the side effects of chemotherapy. Support from others also helps you look forward to the day when you will be finished with treatments,” says Dr. Marceau, who appreciated how renovations transformed the Cancer Center into a healing environment.
“While the medicine made me pretty sleepy, the windows with a view of the healing garden and comfortable chairs made it a much nicer treatment center than before,” Dr. Marceau says. “The care was outstanding, too, from the nurses and staff and Dr. [Warren] Robinson. They were very kind and professional, and when I had a reaction to my first treatment, they were right on top of things.”
In 2013, about four years after Dr. Marceau beat cancer for the second time, Cheryl started a new job at Divine Providence after transferring from the Emergency Department at UPMC Williamsport, where she was a unit clerk-patient liaison.
As Cheryl greeted Dr. Marceau for the first time, a lightbulb went on for him.
“She introduced herself, and I just recognized her voice,” he says.
In fact, they had spoken many times before when he was an on-call specialist for the Behavioral Health Department. Cheryl’s voice was the one on the telephone waking him up at all hours of the night when a patient in the Emergency Department needed his help.
After many casual conversations over nine months, Cheryl asked Dr. Marceau if he’d like to meet for coffee. Their three-hour conversation on that first date led to a six-month courtship and marriage in 2015. In addition to helping him find love again, Cheryl helped Dr. Marceau find his way back to his faith. Recognizing their good fortune as a couple, they have set family goals to serve the Lord and others with their gifts and talents.
“That is what we have focused our lives on. We are at a point in our lives where we don’t need anything. We would really just like to bless others,” Dr. Marceau says.
One way they share that blessing is through their financial support of the Cancer Center.
“We received world-class treatment right here at home,” Cheryl says. “Divine Providence saved my life once and saved Mike’s twice. We are so thankful and grateful for that hospital.”
A ministry of service is another way they bless others. In addition to serving their church together as Eucharistic ministers, Cheryl volunteers twice a week in the Cancer Center doing what she can to provide comfort and support for patients and their families. She offers to pray with them, brings them refreshments and meals, cleans up, and also helps refill carts for the nurses. Her favorite thing is bringing a warm blanket to a patient or sitting with a patient who is alone, just as many staff members did for her husband.
“It is such a blessing to be there and give to others. You receive so much more in return,” Cheryl says. “Mike’s work is his life’s ministry. Mine is to give back to the patients at the Cancer Center, because I am grateful for the care we received there, and we want others to know that if there is hope for us, there is hope for them, too.”