Jul/Aug
2016

Local Author Mary McCarthy

Written by Catherine H. Armstrong
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When your diagnosis is brain cancer and the location is inoperable, the future can feel daunting. Rochester resident Mary McCarthy lived these fears and wrote about them in her autobiography, “A Pilgrimage of Hope: A Story of Faith and Medicine.” 

The story of McCarthy’s illness began in March 2011 with what she assumed was a fainting spell. “I was healthy that morning,” she remembers, but by mid-afternoon she experienced the first of many seizures that were later diagnosed as Grade Three Oligoastrocytoma, a low-grade form of brain cancer.

Not On My To-Do List

“Brain tumor was not on my list of things to do,” McCarthy jokes. “I had mailed a deposit (that morning) for a trip to a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in January of 2012.”

Over the next six weeks McCarthy’s seizures continued, requiring many overnight stays at Mayo Clinic. “Nights in the hospital were lonely, and I shared my fears with the Lord and was consoled,” McCarthy says. She explains that these devotionals helped her understand the importance of prioritizing personal relationships and increased her resolve to complete treatments in time for her planned pilgrimage, only 10 months in the future.

 Writing on CaringBridge 

McCarthy utilized CaringBridge, a free blogging website for patients, to post updates about her condition for family and friends. It was through these initial writings that her readers encouraged her to translate the writings into a book that might inspire others.

 In December 2011, McCarthy successfully completed her final treatment and was declared cancer free just in time for her planned pilgrimage. When she returned, she devoted her efforts to writing her story. 

Rochester Writers Group

New to the publishing industry, and with no idea where to begin, McCarthy looked for assistance from Rochester Public Library. There she was introduced to the Rochester MN Writers Group, led by local author Mike Kalmbach. This group of writers and authors meets twice monthly and offers objective critiques of each other’s writing, as well as helpful information related to navigating the publishing industry. McCarthy became an active member and credits its members for helping shape her manuscript into the final draft of her book. For guidance on publishing, she turned to friend and author, Emily Cavins, who recommended self-publishing through Author House. 

After nearly three years of rewrites and edits, the autobiographical account of McCarthy’s journey was finally released. McCarthy says the title, “A Pilgrimage of Hope: A Story of Faith and Medicine,” is a deliberate play on words that represents not only her nine-month journey through cancer treatments, but the importance of faith, which gave her courage, and the long-awaited pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

McCarthy sees the book as her “attempt to fulfill God’s will” and hopes it will provide encouragement and hope to others embarking on their own cancer journeys. “Trust God. He has a plan for everyone,” is the message McCarthy hopes readers will take away from her story.

“A Pilgrimage of Hope: A Story of Faith and Medicine” is available for purchase online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and at Hunt’s Drug and Gift located in Rochester’s Silver Lake Shopping Center. McCarthy and her book will be available at Thursdays on First and Third through a booth provided by the Rochester MN Writers Group.  For more information on McCarthy’s novel or to discuss a speaking engagement, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Catherine H. Armstrong holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and is the author of The Edge of Nowhere, a fictional account of her family’s survival during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl. For more information, visit her website at charmstrongbooks.com.

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