A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Nurses’ friendship grows during cancer journey

Mary Jo Clark and Tracy Brock pose for a photo before Brock had her head shaved to show her support for Clark's second bout with breast cancer.

Mary Jo Clark and Tracy Brock pose for a photo before Brock had her head shaved to show her support for Clark’s second bout with breast cancer.

A little more than a year ago, we shared the inspiring story of two Marshfield Clinic nurses, who knew each other for only a few months, but became close friends over a pair of hair clippers and a bout with cancer.

Today, that workplace relationship has blossomed into a friendship with deep impact on their personal and professional lives.

“This became a story that shows how good people can be,” Mary Jo Clark said recently as she continues her cancer battle. “It shows that there are truly selfless people who will do anything for a friend.”

The beginning of Clark’s journey

Clark was undergoing chemotherapy in March 2015 as she fought cancer for a second time. Her hair was gone, but her spirit was strong. Tracy Brock, her co-worker at the time at Marshfield Clinic’s Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) in Marshfield, was impressed by Clark’s will to not only survive, but thrive.

The two had known each other for only a few months. Brock was thankful that Clark and the rest of the ASC team had welcomed her when she first joined. After Clark shared she was undergoing cancer treatment, Brock wanted to show she cared. So she had her head shaved.

“No amount of money I could give Mary was going to cure her cancer,” Brock said recently. “What else could I do to show my support for her cancer fight and thank her for welcoming me to the Clinic?”

Friends embrace after one shaves her head to show support of friends cancer treatment

Marshfield Clinic nurses Mary Jo Clark and Tracy Brock share a hug while Brock has her head shaved to show her support for Clark as she undergoes chemotherapy to treat breast cancer.

Today’s friendship

In the 15 months since Clark shaved Brock’s hair on a quiet Friday afternoon in front of their colleagues, the two continue to be surprised by people’s reaction to their story. The story was shared on social media and in a Clinic employee newsletter.

“People come up to me and ask how I’m doing and say they saw my story on Facebook,” Clark said. “It’s amazing.”

Clark is beginning a new round of chemotherapy, one that holds more promise for attacking the stubborn cancer, while yet not causing her hair to fall out. She talks about her cancer almost as an afterthought, her voice full of cheer and positivity as she talks about continuing to work full time, her family and friends. Coworkers who recognize her in the hallways stop to say hello and see how she’s doing.

Brock, meanwhile, now keeps her styled blond locks short after her buzz cut grew back.  She occasionally misses the ability to pull her hair into a ponytail, but it serves as a reminder.

“People in the public or coworkers across Marshfield Clinic Health System I’ve never met have emailed me about the story and it’s made me realize that shaving my head, which I did as a small show of support to Mary Jo, truly made a difference,” Brock said. “I had never thought about that before.”

Clark still can’t believe a woman she barely knew willingly sacrificed her hair for her. Though the two now work in different departments, they remain close friends and are forever linked.

“My faith, family and friends help me get through the days when my cancer tries to keep me down,” Clark said. “I can still do the things I want to do. I just do them a bit slower.”

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