Radio personality Mary Beth Zolik, seen here last year with fellow emcee Rick Woodell at the American Heart Association's 14th annual Glass City Heart Ball "Swing into Spring," learned she had cancer this week.
It’s the news no one wants to hear. You have cancer.
Certainly it wasn’t what Mary Beth Zolik expected.
The longtime radio personality who brightens listeners’ morning commutes from 5 to 10 a.m. weekdays on WRVF-FM 101.5 The River, told a coworker “I felt like I was sucker punched” by the results of a Wednesday diagnosis that showed she has Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, an aggressive but also curable cancer.
“I have no symptoms right now,” Zolik told The Blade, “so I feel good. And that was the most shocking thing of all. I thought whatever it is I’m going in for I’m sure they won’t find anything because I feel good.”
But her doctor chimed in with the gravity of the situation: “He said I may feel good now, but maybe a year from now or less than that the symptoms would have started to arise and the cancer could have escalated that much more.”
And so the 58-year-old married mother of three finds herself in a battle for her life. After announcing her cancer to Mary Beth and Rick show listeners Tuesday morning, Zolik begins chemotherapy Thursday, the first of 18 weeks of treatment through the end of April that will keep her away from her job some of that time, depending on how her body responds to the radiation. She might feel nauseous. She might lose hair. She might feel tired. All of that. Or perhaps none of that.
“I’ll have chemo every three weeks,” Zolik said. “Supposedly it takes you a day or two to recover after a treatment. And then you’ve got three weeks to pull yourself up and go about your normal activities. And that’s my plan because my doctors says that all part of the treatment is trying to keep things as normal as possible.”
Rarely sick and never diagnosed with anything close to life-threatening, Zolik remains optimistic of her chances to beat the cancer, though she doesn’t want to be overly confident. “I always think you should have a Plan B,” she said.
Still, she and her husband took considerable comfort in what her doctor said when delivering the news of her biopsy.
“He came into the room and said, there are many days I have to tell people very sad news, but this isn’t one of those days for you,” Zolik said. “And when the doctor walked out of the room my husband said, ‘We don’t need to go anywhere else for an opinion. This is our guy.’ ”
After she made the announcement of her battle with cancer, listeners called the station and sent encouraging notes to Zolik on Facebook.
“In the course of the first few minutes you couldn’t answer the phone fast enough. The Facebook page blew up,” said her on-air partner, Rick Woodell. “It makes her feel wonderful, as it would anyone, so many people sharing their life stories. That’s got to feel encouraging.”
Toledo radio legend and Zolik’s former radio co-host Jack Mitchell, who successfully teamed with her on three different stations from 1981 to 2006 until retiring, spoke with his friend twice in the last few weeks: once while she was waiting for the diagnosis and again after the results.
“She’s a toughie. I think she’s going to beat this damned thing,” he said. “It’s got to be shocking when this happens. As you can certainly imagine, it’s been an upheaval. But she’s going to handle it in her own inevitable style.”
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.