Yard sale with a cause

Mary Bryant with some of her yard sale merchandise.

Many people gather their things and put out “yard sale” signs when they need to raise a little cash. Mary Bryant is selling everything from toys to antiques at her indoor yard sale in hopes of paying down some of her medical bills in case kidney cancer claims her life.

“There is no way I can make that much at a yard sale — to pay what I owe,” Bryant said, explaining her financial burden far outweighs her ability to earn income.

“Twice, now, I’ve been told to divorce my husband or find a child to qualify for benefits,” she said, noting she and her husband Gerald have been married for 44 years and she isn’t willing to split with him that easily.

“I did kind of consider it,” she admits. “I told him if this happens again we might have to divorce because of the money.”

Bryant, 61, who is “No. 10 of 16 kids,” said her cancer battle began more than seven years ago when blood was discovered in a routine urine sample. She was given medication and told to come back in a couple of weeks, thinking it was a simple problem.

“I almost didn’t go back, but something told me I should,” she said. They did the CT Scan and the nurse said I couldn’t leave. I asked, ‘Why not?’ and she said, ‘The doctor is coming.’ I said, ‘Uh-oh. The doctor is coming.’ They showed me the films and said ‘That’s cancer.’ I was just shocked. I thought I had lived a fairly healthy life.”

The diagnosis was for renal cell carcinoma, she said, adding most people simply call the condition kidney cancer. Surgery in 2003 seemed to take care of the problem and Bryant passed her annual exams with no signs of further trouble.

“Thankfully, every year everything was OK ... until last fall and I started having like a backache,” she said, adding the problem escalated until she had to use motorized scooters to get around in stores and eventually sought help from a chiropractor whose spinal adjustment seemed to be the solution to her pain.

In May, however, she again noticed blood in her urine, something she now admits she had chosen to overlook for months because she knew she had no health insurance and no way to pay for a doctor’s exam.

“I went to the clinic in Flatwoods and they said I had cancer on my hip,” she said, noting her reaction was, “thankful to God it was not somewhere else. I thought they could just radiate it and I would be just fine.”

After 10 radiation treatments, Bryant said she was asked to see another doctor for chemotherapy. When that doctor asked her how her family had reacted to news of her condition, she discovered her condition was worse than she had realized.

“Nobody told me it was terminal,” she said, maintaining a soft smile as she recalled the shock of the situation. “The doctor couldn’t tell me how long I have to live, but said we would fight it together and I might even live long enough to see a cure.”

Bryant said she had a close call 24 days after starting to take chemotherapy tablets when she experienced extreme memory loss and then noticed she was bruising at an accelerated rate. After an emergency-room visit, she was told “eating a potato chip could have been enough to cut my throat and I would have bled to death.”

Even though she has days when it is difficult to accept the situation, Bryant said she is at peace with whatever happens next.

“I trust in God and God is in control totally. God is the one that heals you and if he wants me to be healed I will be healed totally. I can’t say I don’t have my days, but ... I don’t think about me. I think about family — the ones that’s going to be left behind — I have four children and 12 grandchildren, one daughter-in-law and two son-in-laws. I think about them.”

Bryant’s indoor yard sale (at 120 20th Street at the former Tri-State Auto Paint Shop) continues through Wednesday, with items including a variety of toys from stuffed animals to remote-control cars and trucks, kitchen items, Christmas decorations, instamatic cameras, calculators, a camp lantern, coffee mugs, a mug filled with different styles of scissors and a multitude of books to chose from. Bryant said she will be willing to sell everything that is left at the end of the day Wednesday in a single lot if anyone is interested, and asks those with questions to call (606) 831-0543.

When she talks about her cancer, Bryant develops a noticeable gleam in her eye and the strong hint of a soft smile in her expression.

“Like I said, I trust God. Are you promised tomorrow? No one is promised tomorrow.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at

tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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