Team Marlene Cheer at Cancer Survivors Walk

The Friends of Marlene will again lead a Cheer Station for the Sunday morning, June 4 Northwestern Lurie Cancer Survivor Walk.  The survivor event is an important gathering of survivors, caregivers, family, friends, and more. If you are interested in being part of the Team - we would be so pleased: Contact Friends of Marlene 




Cancer Saved My Life: Supportive Oncology Services Help Patient Find a New Perspective During and After Cancer

“Cancer came at a very inconvenient time,” said Marina Gavriel, as she reflected pensively on the past year of her life and the road she has traveled since her diagnosis. In March of this year, Marina found herself jobless, stripped of financial resources, and facing the threat of losing her home. But as she spoke of her journey, she smiled warmly, exuding both courage and optimism. Through her heart-warming and inspiring story, she credits her cancer journey with helping her find a renewed sense of purpose and revealing her life’s true meaning.

Marina emigrated from Cyprus to the United States, leaving behind friends and family to start a new chapter. She’s worked in healthcare for many years, including a Harvard teaching hospital in Boston and most recently Abbott Laboratories in Lake Bluff, where she conducted market research for commercial assessment of oncology drugs in development. Marina was thrivinghappy, successful, and self-sufficient. She had established herself as a helper to others both professionally and personally.

Then, through a series of unanticipated events, Marina’s picture-perfect life started to unravel. She lost her job and searched her soul to figure out what her next career move needed to be for her to be fulfilled. In July 2014, she was injured during a hiking trip in Norway, and, in an instant, she went from climbing ten consecutive hours to being wheeled onto a plane in a wheelchair. As soon as the flight touched down in Chicago, she headed straight to the emergency department at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she has been a patient for more than a decade. Although she was uninsured due to her unemployment, Northwestern Memorial helped her to get the immediate care she neededand much more. In February 2015, Marina visited the Lynn Sage Cancer Comprehensive Breast Center for a routine mammogram and was diagnosed with Stage 2a breast cancer; the cancer was detected early.

Because of her background in oncology, Marina knew exactly where to find relevant information, statistics, guidelines and treatment protocols. This was her turf intellectuallybut not personally. While she hadn’t known the patient experience before now, she knew that understanding the process would make the experience better for her, and she dove head first into what she describes as a “project.At the recommendation of her physicians, her cancer treatment plan mushroomed from surgery to four months of chemotherapy to radiationall amidst a job search and financial turmoil.

A very private and self-protective person, Marina chose to not disclose her health or financial struggles to anyone. At Northwestern Memorial, her social workers became her allies, guiding her along every step of her journey. They armed her with invaluable community resources and directed her to Timothy Pearman, PhD, director of the Supportive Oncology Program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. With family and friends 5,000 miles away, the Supportive Oncology Program became her safe haven. She is grateful for the program, which she says provided her with validation; weekly contact with clinical psychologists and social workers; crucial help in navigating the process of paperwork and documentation to validate her healthcare services; a healing boutique that helped her with a wig and makeup sessions; opportunities to volunteer, which led her to become an outreach ambassador for another community organization; connections to modest financial resources and much more.

“The Supportive Oncology Program gave me a supportive community that made an immensely positive difference in my life through tangible resources and emotional support,” she said.

Through her work with Dr. Pearman, she finally came to accept that she could not do this alone.

She said, “It took me a while to grasp that cancer is a life crisis for which everyone needs support. I finally submitted by saying ‘World, I need help!’”

That realization meant completely changing her mindset and learning that disclosure and trusting in others is self healing. On March 3, the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis, she went public with her story and started a crowd funding campaign and has received lots of support, from her high school friends in Cyprus to acquaintances she hasn’t talked to in 30 years. The name of her campaign is ‘Cancer Saved My Life.

The experience also has led Marina to modify her career path. Supportive oncology helped her validate her experience and put it into a wider context. As a cancer professional, her roles had been very technical and drug focused, but she had always been most concerned about the benefits to patients. This twist of fate placed her in the middle of the experience as a patient and gave her the answer she needed regarding how to move forward in her career. What was missing professionally happened to her personally and she wants to use her experience to help others with cancer. She is excited about playing a new role in cancerpatient advocacy.

For others who have been newly diagnosed, Marina has the following message:

Knowing how resistant self-sufficient people can be to opening up, know that I understand your resistance and your wish to feel a sense of power by doing this on your own. And at the same time, throughout the process, you will realize that this disease is bigger than any one person can tackle alone. You won’t know that until you are enveloped in this crisis. Please know that it is most empowering to accept your vulnerability.”

The Supportive Oncology Program is funded in part by Friends of Marlene. To make a gift to the Supportive Oncology Program, please contact Holly Gibout at Northwestern Memorial Foundation at or at 312-926-4016. 


Financial Goal

The Friends of Marlene have raised over $450,000 to fund supportive oncology services at Northwestern. This total reflects net revenue with the committee successfully spending only 12 cents on the dollar to cover fundraising administrative and event related costs.  Thank you for your support!

Association Forum Supports Friends of Marlene

The Association Forum of Chicagoland Honors Gala is a tradition for Chicagoland associations and serves as Association Forum Foundation’s cornerstone fundraising event of the year. The evening brings together association professionals and suppliers to celebrate and honor the achievement of industry colleagues and partners. In both 2011, 2012,  2014 and 2015, Association Forum has in some way supported the Friends of Marlene.  Questions about the Gala? Please contact , The Association Forum at (312) 924-7073

The Friends of Marlene thank Association Forum for its ongoing support!

Northwestern Names Exam Room for Marlene

In November 2011, an exam room was named in memory of Marlene Hetzel Palmerson at the Maggie Daley Center, located at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital.  The naming of the room for Marlene is a testimony to the Friends of Marlene and the Palmerson Family for their dedication in insuring the continuation of this Legacy of Care.

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Gilda's Club Chicago Partnership

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Friends of Marlene is pleased to announce that as of July 1, 2017 we will exclusively partner with Gilda's Club Chicago.  We have had seven great years of fundraising on behalf of Northwestern Memorial Foundation, The Maggie Daley Center and The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.  We will close our formal relationship with Northwestern having raised $500,000. Having funded many different supportive services at Northwestern, one that we will continue to financially support and are most proud of is the "Patient Notebook".  This has become an essential tool for patients, providing critical information and a place to chronicle the patient journey. We are deeply grateful to Northwestern for their support and great work. We are delighted to broaden our scope of support to include not only cancer patients, as well as their families friends and caregivers, through our relationship with Gilda's Club Chicago. To learn more about Gilda's Club Chicago:  Click Here    

Friends of Marlene Cheer at 24th Annual Cancer Survivors' Celebration Walk & 5K

Each year Friends of Marlene make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer and their families by supporting our cheer-team's fundraising efforts for the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University!

Again on June 4, 2017, our Team joined in the Lurie Cancer Center’s 24th Annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration Walk & 5K. Our goals are to honor and celebrate cancer survivors, inspire those recently diagnosed, accelerate vital research to prevent, detect and treat cancer, and improve the lives of patients after treatment ends.

Great job Team Marlene!

To financially support our cheer-team: Click Here

2017 Lurie Walk

Welcome Associate Committee

The Friends of Marlene welcomes our new Associate Committee.  The group will bring innovative new perspectives to our fundraising and awareness building.  Thank you to this enthusiastic new group.

Jennifer Kimball, Chair

Mandy Marneris, CMP

MJ Meisenheimer

Maddie Metcalf

Cassie Niespodziewanski

Annie Palmerson

Kristina Simkins

Kelly Snyder, CMP

Maddie Wehking

Joe Wilush

Inaugural Golf Outing Raised Over $85,000

On October 3, the Friends of Marlene hosted the Inaugural Golf Outing at Stonebridge Country Club.  88 golfers, sponsors and Friends of Marlene enjoyed an outstanding event which included a post-golf dinner.  Our sincerest gratitude to all who participated and especially our sponsors.  For a full list of event sponsors click here.

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Save the date for next years outing - Monday October 2, 2017

Stonebridge Country Club, Aurora Illinois

For more Information about sponsorship opportunities and foursomes contact:


Financial Achievement                                                       

As of March 1, 2017, The Friends of Marlene have raised over $450,000 in support of comprehensive cancer care at The Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern Medicine.  

Annual Giving

We recognize and thank those who have supported the Friends of Marlene. Thank you

For a complete list of donors click here


Thank You to onPeak, our Founding Sponsor 

Since the Friends of Marlene began its work, onPeak has generously provided both financial support and in-kind service each year. Thank you!