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Cynthia Maule-Trail: Three-Time Cancer Survivor

by Lisa Rollins
reprinted with permission from Middle Tennessee State University Magazine, Spring 2001 issue

Cynthia Maule-TrailCynthia Maule-Trail, mother of Seven and three-time cancer survivor, knows what it means to persevere in the face of adversity. "I was a first-generation cancer victim," explains Maule-Trail (B.S. '98), whose children now range in age from 22 to 37. "I was diagnosed with uterine cancer when I was 30 and pregnant; then [at age 48] I did a self-examination and discovered the breast cancer ...and the ovarian cancer was discovered when I went in for my annual check-up [in 1998]."

Now a master's candidate in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, Maule-Trail was recently named the first recipient of the $5,000 U.S. Oncology Scholarship, presented in Washington, D.C., by the Patient Advocate Foundation, Newport News, VA. Applicants must be enrolled full time in a degree-seeking program; maintain at least a 3.0 GPA; demonstrate financial need; complete at least 20 hours of community service that year; write an essay related to the major area of study; and be a survivor of a life-threatening, chronic, or debilitating disease.

Maule-Trail says the first time she battled cancer was the most terrifying. "I already had children who were really, really small and I was carrying what I thought was going to be my last [child], and I really wanted this baby.

"My concern was great that I wouldn't survive long enough for him to be born, and that became my goal. With his birth, I had four children under the age of 5."

Maule-Trail was 48 years old and in college when she learned she had cancer for the second time. By the third occurrence, she had just earned a bachelor's degree from MTSU--with a perfect grade point average. She returned to work within 10 days of surgery.

"It was my husband, Ray, who consistently insisted through all of this that I stay in school, because if something ever happened to him, he wanted to make sure I would be able to take care of myself financially," she says.

"When I got my bachelor of science, I wanted him to cross the stage with me, because he had helped me so much," she remembers. "And so when [graduation] was over, we took my diploma and we etched his name in next to mine ... and the same thing will happen with the master's degree, because it's just as much his as mine."

Maule-Trail, unfortunately, is still not free of cancer's direct impact on her life. After she began work on her master's degree, Ray was diagnosed with a terminal form of the disease.

"It was easier to deal with it [myself] than it is for me to deal with it for him," she says of her husband's diagnosis. "I did a lot more crying when it was him."

Still, while grappling with his own health woes, Ray remains a big support system for his wife, and in the process, he too has benefited, believes Maule-Trail. "He helps me so much with my schoolwork that it keeps him active," she says, "so I think my being in school has helped him."