“A lady came on the Hope Bus one day and told us that it was her last day of chemotherapy. The only thing she wanted to do was a happy dance with us, so we all got up and did a happy dance with her, and then she left.”
The joyful encounter resonates with Maribeth Moorehead, who says that she never saw the woman again. For some – like Maribeth, a Warwick resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 – the first time stepping aboard the Hope Bus is not as bold.
“I was so scared the first time because I didn’t know what I was getting into,” described Maribeth of her first visit to the Hope Bus in 2011. “I was afraid to share my experiences and meet new people.”
At the time, Maribeth had completed treatment and a recent breast ultrasound detected no signs of cancer. But she still had her worries. In 2009, she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which has a higher recurrence risk after treatment compared to other types of breast cancer, according to studies.
Thanks to Maureen DiPiero, who coordinates the Hope Bus, Maribeth’s pessimism was transformed into optimism.
“When I look into someone’s eyes, I can tell what kind of person they are,” said Maribeth, a 55-year-old former pre-school teacher at Saint Rose of Lima School. “When I looked into Maureen’s eyes, I saw a good person.”
She continued, “Maureen first asked me to tell her a little bit about myself, and I was still holding back. Then she told me that she knows other triple negative breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed 10 years ago, which was uplifting information that dramatically changed my outlook and attitude.”
Since her first visit, Maribeth has regularly volunteered on the Hope Bus – a meaningful experience motivated by her desire to “pay it forward.”
“For someone who has to face breast cancer, only certain people understand what you go through,” she said. “The connections that are made on the Hope Bus help in the healing process.”
The Hope Bus first hit the road in 2011. The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation uses the 38-foot pink recreational vehicle to offer free breast health education, awareness and support programs to the community. Since its inception, the Pawtucket-based nonprofit has directly reached thousands of people in all 39 towns and cities of Rhode Island.
Now, the Hope Bus will make its way to Rhode Islanders in their homes when the third installment of “Behind the Ribbon,” the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation’s documentary series, airs Sunday, Dec. 29 at 6 p.m. on Rhode Island PBS.
In “The Hope Bus” episode, viewers are taken behind the scenes and offered access to intimate stories of triumph and perseverance from breast cancer survivors, and learn the approach behind the Hope Bus and how it has become what it is today. Additionally, viewers are taken on the Hope Bus as it travels to locations throughout the Ocean State, including the Moorehead residence, where Maribeth and her husband Barry –who drives the Hope Bus – offer an inspiring glimpse into their personal journey with breast cancer.
“The Hope Bus” will re-air on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 11 p.m. on Rhode Island PBS. “Behind the Ribbon” premiered on Rhode Island PBS in March. The first two installments, “Young Survivors” and “Beauty and the Beast,” can be viewed at youtube.com/GloriaGemmaVideos.