Cancer Survivor Pays It Forward, Opens The “Giving Cabinet”

Meggan Brennan-Marino started the Giving Cabinet this March. (Photo by Stephanie A. Faughnan)

  STAFFORD – Meggan Brennan-Marino knows what it’s like to seemingly have everything and risk losing it all – including life itself.

  “I was just 34 years old when I went to bed happy and healthy,” Marino recalled. “I woke up not feeling well and it turned out to be Stage IIIC cancer. My life suddenly went upside down and backwards.”

  Meggan and her husband, Vincent, were three-year newlyweds when they received the dreaded diagnosis. They’d been trying to conceive a child and were frustrated that she wasn’t getting pregnant. The cancer apparently played an active role in preventing the growth of their family.

  “We were a dual income family,” shared Meggan. “I had a great job in telecommunications when this happened.”

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   Meggan struggled with treatments and ultimately returned to work for what she says were the most grueling eight years of her life. She did so against medical advice.

  The cancer did more than impact her physical health. At some point, Vincent and Meggan experienced financial devastation as they wiped out their savings accounts.

Cabinets are stocked for those in need and available on an honor system. (Photo by Stephanie A. Faughnan)

  Social Security disability benefits replaced the six-figure salary. The experience humbled her and made her look for ways to save money. For one, she took up couponing to get regular household items at reduced costs.

  Meggan went into remission thirteen years ago and is the youngest living survivor of the rare cancer that changed her life. Amazingly, she credits the cancer for giving her something very special.

   “The cancer took away my ability to conceive,” Meggan said. “My 18-year-old son is adopted. When he was old enough to understand, I told him that God put him in the wrong mommy’s belly. If it hadn’t been for the cancer, I would not have my son.”

  Gratitude came with a spirit of giving for this woman who learned what is what like to appreciate every day. Meggan decided she needed to devise a means to help others.

  While she may or may not fit into the category of extreme couponing, she admits coupons play a big role in what she simply calls “The Giving Cabinet.”

  This March, Meggan was sitting around with Vincent and some friends and talked about her coupon efforts. She mentioned that as a results of her couponing, she’d stockpiled numerous items. Meggan had an idea.

Photo by Stephanie A. Faughnan

  “I told them I wanted to put stuff outside and see if anybody needed it,” shared Meggan. “They laughed at me and dismissed the thought that anyone would walk up my driveway to pick up a couple of tubes of toothpaste.”

   The resistance did not dissuade Meggan, who considers herself a strong willed and opiniated person. Meggan had her mind set and went into the garage and dragged out a large plastic cabinet to the outside of the garage door.

  That March evening at 8:30 at night Meggan’s Giving Cabinet took on a life of its own.

  Meggan initially stocked the Giving Cabinet with health and beauty items. She then made a post on Facebook announcing the items were available on an honor system basis for anyone in need.

  “Five minutes later, I got a message from a woman in our neighborhood with kids who hasn’t received child support,” Meggan said. “She was embarrassed and wanted to know could she come grab a toothpaste and shampoo and conditioner and deodorant.”

  The outreach hit Meggan to the core, and she began to sob immediately. She reassured the young mother she was more than welcome to take what she needed.

The Brennan-Marino garage is full of items that will be sorted and placed in the cabinets. (Photo by Stephanie A. Faughnan)

  Since that time, the Giving Cabinet has expanded. Meggan has added on additional cabinets. One cabinet contains pet food, while others contain non-perishable items and toiletries.

  While Meggan started the Giving Cabinet with her couponing efforts, the spirit of giving has touched others. Many send over donations – hoping to make a difference as well.

  “I think what people don’t necessarily realize is that just because you have a nice home or nice cars,” shared Meggan. “Doesn’t mean that your life couldn’t change in an instant.”

  The Giving Cabinet operates entirely on an honor system. Meggan does not want anyone to forego picking up things they need because they are ashamed. She asks no questions and expects nothing in return.

  Anyone who feels they will benefit from the Giving Cabinet can learn more on their Facebook page. Donations are happily accepted for this amazing project.