In a perfect world, Marie Walls would be preparing to travel to North Carolina for her son's July 6 wedding.
Instead, she's sitting in her tiny Shady Pines trailer home, waiting to die.
Three weeks ago, Walls thought she was in nearly perfect health. But May 28, she entered the hospital for a routine biopsy.
That's when her rectal cancer was discovered.
And that's when the 46-year-old woman was told she has three or four months to live.
"The cancer had spread all through my body already," Walls said Wednesday. "They told me that even if I got (chemotherapy), it would only prolong my life a month or two. We went to about six different doctors, and they all said the same thing: I have about three or four months."
"It's hard for it to sink in," she said, eyes cast skyward. "All you can do is take one day at a time and make the best of it. Ted and I are trying to make the best of the time together that we have."
"It's shocking," Ted, Walls' husband of 31 years, said. "We've both been healthy all our lives. We've never had any problems. I'm a bundle of nerves, but I have to be strong for her. I have to be strong. We just pray to God she'll be going to a better place."
Love and support
"We miss Marie, and so do a lot of our customers," said Kim Ewaniuk, manager of the Payson Burger King where Walls worked for two years until her diagnosis. "Marie is very, very loved. She's a tiny little thing. She still has her New York accent, and her mission in life seems to be to make everyone smile and to please everyone else. She's just one of those good people that this shouldn't happen to. This is not a fair thing."
Burger King customer Larry McDaniel agrees. "Marie waited on me every morning when I'd go through the drive-through," he said. "I'd pull up, she'd hear my voice, she'd say, 'The same-same?' I'd say, 'Yeah.' She always knew just what I wanted. I never even had to order it.
"One morning, I stopped in, and there was a different person running the window. When I found out what was going on ... I said, 'Let's do a benefit.'"
Ewaniuk had the same idea. The result: She and McDaniel organized a benefit bash for Walls that will take place Sunday afternoon, June 23, at the Moose Lodge in Star Valley. In addition to $5-a-plate spaghetti dinners and an auction of merchandise donated by area businesses, live entertainment will be offered by local musicians Ron Gibson, Shakey Joe Harless, Deak, and Anne James and Friends.
Walls, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was charmed into moving to Payson 12 years ago by Ted, who had lived here years ago and always hoped to return. Prior to landing a job at Burger King, she worked behind the drive-up window at Wendy's for five years. Her husband, meanwhile, launched and operated his own local business, Precision Golf.
Neither of their jobs, however, provided health insurance.
Although Marie now has the assistance of RTA Hospice and has recently been granted some state medical coverage, most of the bills she has accumulated thus far will not be covered.
"One of the medications I picked up the other day cost $120 just for one prescription," she said, still amazed. "Right now, with no income coming in, just paying our normal bills is tough. We had a little bit put away, but that's mostly gone now."
For the moment, though, what concerns Walls most is her son Daniel's wedding.
"Financially, we'll find a way to get there, one way or the other," she said. "I just hope I'm healthy enough to make the trip. We'd really like to go."
She is also hoping for a visitor.
"My Mom knows everything that's going on, and she'd love to come out from back East and stay for a few weeks, since they don't know how long I have," Walls said. "But the motels here are too expensive, and we don't have enough room here in the trailer for her. So I'm trying to find someone who'll rent her out an inexpensive room where she can stay for a little bit."
Those are among the aforementioned details Walls is trying to handle a day at a time. But there is one task she completed on the spot.
"This is so important to me," she said. "I'd really like to thank everyone in town for all they're doing for us. We really appreciate it. We do."
How you can help ...
A benefit fund-raiser for Marie Walls will take place Sunday, June 23, at the Greater Moose Lodge No. 852 in Star Valley starting at 1 p.m. Live entertainment will be offered; spaghetti dinners will be available for $5 per plate; and there will be an auction of merchandise and gift certificates donated by area merchants. Donations can also be made at Bank of America, account No. 004650813973. For more information, call Kim Ewaniuk at 474-6213, or Larry McDaniel at 474-4449.