Mary Chandler teaching at Eagle Ridge Elementary. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
An Arizona teacher dreamed of taking her family to the beach but cancer treatments drained the family vacation fund.
That is until friends of this elementary school teacher contacted CBS 5's Pay It Forward.
Mary Chandler, of Phoenix, is just one of those people who always has a smile on her face and a laugh in her heart - even if that laugh is used to mask her tears.
Last summer, Chandler said she noticed a swollen lymph node in her neck. Soon after, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
"When you first hear cancer, first of all, you never think it's going to be you," Chandler said. "And second, you don't know what to think. Because in the past, people who have gotten cancer have died, and I didn't want to be one of those people."
Chandler started chemotherapy in September but would only take a week of work off at a time. She was staying active with her four kids at home and her full class at Eagle Ridge Elementary
"It has helped me," Chandler said. "It's gotten me up, out of bed, dressed every day, given me somewhere to go, something else to focus on besides cancer."
She didn't let the disease drain her energy but the treatments drained her pocketbook. They actually dashed her dreams of a family vacation to the beach.
Good friend and fellow teacher Regina O'Brien knew $500 could go a long way to getting Chandler and her family's feet in the surf, so she reached out to CBS 5 News.
"Her family needs special time together," O'Brien said. "They need to celebrate their mom and their wife and I just want her to be able to take that time."
Paying It Forward to the Chandler family was mission No. 1 for O'Brien.
"I hope she sees how much we love and appreciate her," O'Brien said. "I hope she gets to go and spend time with her family. She deserves it."
O'Brien surprised Chandler with the $500.
"Oh, my goodness," Chandler said. "I'm going to start crying."
"Mary, I know this has been a difficult year for you. But you have persevered with amazing courage and such a beautiful spirit," O'Brien said. "I want to Pay It Forward to you and to your family with CBS 5 with $500."
Chandler was overwhelmed.
"We're going to Disneyland!" she said. "Oh, thank you. Oh, that's so sweet."
Chandler's most recent pet scans are clear. Just one more to go and she's officially cancer-free.
But before she dons the sunglasses and hits the sand, she wanted to pass along this message to others facing tough times.
"Never give up - I think is my motto," Chandler said. "Always keep going and even if something, life hands you something terrible, there's something good that comes out of it. People are good, and they're willing to help out if they know you need it."
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