Saturday, April 2, 2011


Marion Pellicano Ambrose

I started my first job at the age of 14. I worked the “Fishing Boat”shift at the local Dunkin Donuts. At 5 am, the ships filled with tired, hungry men who had been out on the water all night, pulled in and they all came to have coffee and a donut (more like several donuts!). We ran non stop from 4am, stacking shelves, filling sugar jars and making coffee, through the 2 or 3 hours of hungry fishermen drinking gallons of coffee and consuming dozens of donuts. By the time they were done, the shop reeked of fish and sweat, my ankles were swollen like balloons, and my once white stockings were splattered with hot coffee stains. Then the regular working crowd started. By the time I got off at 11am, I could barely walk the half mile home. This was to be the pattern of my life, working hard, long hours, going to school, and loving the feeling of being useful. After being a “Donut Girl”, I worked in the library, in a luncheonette, at a five and dime, and as a guitar teacher. Finally, in my senior year of college I taught music in an elementary school. I was immediately hired upon graduation and have been teaching ever since, even during the 6 years I was an Assistant Principal. I couldn’t imagine my life doing anything else but the job I loved so much.

Two years ago I became incapacitated due to degenerative disc disease. A discectomy was unsuccessful and I had to have a full lumbar fusion. It was a major surgery and had its complications, one of which was that it sparked an autoimmune disease. After several misdiagnosis (kidney cancer, giant cell arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica) and 9 months of prednisone , chemo medication injections (which my husband called “liquid death”) and other medications, I was finally sent to an amazing rheumatologist named Dr. Elena Barnes. She diagnosed me with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease and after a few months, had me cleaned up of the poisons I had been taking and on the right meds. While I am much improved, I am still disabled and since this disease is incurable, will remain so. I tell you all this to show how foreign the idea of not working a 60+ hour work week is to me. When I was bedridden, the days just blended one into another and I slept my life away. Now that I am able to get out of bed and  even able to walk a little, I can’t seem to do much without spending the next day in bed and incapacitated again. I was frustrated  and just about to lose what was left of my mind.

That’s when a friend asked me to come with her to her women’s club meeting.  It would be short, included having lunch together and would do me good to get out for a bit. I agreed and so she picked me up and took me with her. I met the nicest group of women you could imagine. I was warmly welcomed by everyone and totally enjoyed the joking and laughing that went on. When the meeting began, I was quite surprised to find out about all the amazing things these women do. The many activities were as varied as the ages and backgrounds of the women themselves. They were planning a “Pink Tea’ to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer Research, they made “smile bags” and wheel chair bags for the nursing home, quilts for children and babies in the hospital, support Hospice, Special /Olympics, Hacienda Girls Ranch, the Sharing Center and they even adopted a yellow lab puppy who is being trained for Canine Companions, another charity they support. One of the members has had training and is the puppy’s “foster mom”. They also support the Liberty Bell Museum with donations and staffing, make “little dresses for Africa” and when I mentioned the little Native American Mission I donate to, they added them to the list of places to send these homemade adorable little dresses!

I was so impressed that I decided to join the club. I attended the tea (a beautiful affair!) and another meeting. I missed the next 2 due to my illness, but went right back when I was well. I joined the ladies in the Linus Project (making quilts for babies and children) even though I’m just teaching myself to sew. They were so helpful and kind in teaching me what to do, picking out materials, and giving me little tricks to make it easier! We all met at the home of one of these wonderful ladies and they worked like an assembly line, measuring, cutting material, cutting batting, matching patterns to make the cutest designs. All the while, they joked, told stories and made me feel like I’d been their friend for years!

I have to say, these ladies have saved my life. I was depressed and feeling very sorry for myself, not being able to do the job I love so much. They helped me to realize that there are other ways to be useful, even if you are disabled. I can do things at my own pace and no one pressures or places demands on me. They’re happy and grateful for however little or however much I can contribute of my time and talent. I’m so grateful to my friend, Helen for introducing me to the GFWC Melbourne Women’s Club! (General Federation of Women’s Clubs)

If you’re interested in joining us, we meet the first Monday of each month at 11;15 am at Morrison’s in the Melbourne Square Mall. We meet in the back room, sign in and then go out and buy our lunch. After lunch we have our meeting and always have a raffle prize. Sometimes our puppy even comes to see us! We hope that soon we will be offering membership to those who cannot attend day meetings. I’ll keep you informed!

Please join us, I guarantee you’ll be warmly welcomed and in the best of company!

GFWC Melbourne Women’s Club Inc
PO Box 2212
Melbourne, FL 32902


  1. wow! your story is amazing...I love your determination in finding a diagnosis and finally the proper treatment.....and how you have found a way to give to others even though you still have are in inspiration!! It is spirit like yours that heros are made of!!! God Bless!

  2. Awesome work being done by these ladies! Good for all of you!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful group of women doing wonderful things! I'm happy that you found them.

  4. between your son and your sickness I don't know how you write such positive stuff. You are definately a glass half full kind of person. Thanks for sharing-love your stuff.

  5. This club sounds like a very good thing. I love the little dresses project. This may just be where God needs you more than at your regular job.