She’s traveled the world and become one of the nation’s most successful travel agents, but Mara Hargarther considers a three-mile stretch in downtown Jacksonville, Florida her most memorable journey, as she is a breast cancer survivor.
The New York native worked on Wall Street as a financial executive until she married Tom and left to have her three children: Brooke (27) and twin sons Corey and Casey (26). The family relocated from Long Island, New York to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and a few years later, Mara traded her briefcase for a suitcase and began her now 22-year career as a cruise travel specialist – first with CruiseOne and now with Dream Vacations. She’s been on over 115 cruises and is known industry wide as “The CruisingLady,” but was also named one of Travel Agent Magazine’s “Top 25 Travel Agents.”
On November 6, 2015, Mara embarked on a different type of journey when she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Shortly after, on December 13, 2015, she had a bilateral mastectomy and simultaneous reconstruction. Chemotherapy began the following February in 2016, as well as her experience with DONNA. Mara ran her first DONNA 5K (yes, a three-mile run) with her daughter just one week after her first chemo treatment. She finished chemo in May, but a June diagnosis of melanoma brought two more additional surgeries. She remains grateful for the Mayo Clinic and M.D. Anderson for her early diagnosis of both cancers, their supports, and her ever-positive attitude, despite treatments and surgeries. In fact, in 2016 she was named the “Franchisee of the Year” by the International Franchise Association.
“Looking back over that year, I remember crossing the finish line at the DONNA 5K and thinking that if I can finish this race, then I can finish any race – including beating cancer,” she says. “That run was an important mental milestone for me.” Afterwards, she started following the work of The DONNA Foundation closely, and the success of the trial for a triple negative breast cancer vaccine discovered by TapImmune and The Mayo Clinic Jacksonville with money raised from by DONNA.
For 2017, Mara’s goal is to conquer the DONNA Half Marathon. She’s formed a fundraising Running Team called “MARA-THON DREAM TEAM,” in an effort to raise funds to Finish breast cancer and is currently training for the 13.1-mile run.
We at TapImmune, www.tapimmune.com, wish Mara every success in the future as we strive hard to develop new innovative treatments for breast cancer patients like her.