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Long-distance support for a sister fighting cancer

Blasdell native Mary Reid Gaudio spent the 1980s playing Red Sonja at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. She appeared similarly clad in the movies “Clan of the Cave Bear” and “Amazon Women on the Moon.”

“I was typecast because I was tall – 5-10 – so I got a lot of Barbarian movies,” she said during a recent telephone interview from her home in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Her sister, Ann Reid, of Batavia, spent part of her younger years in Italy making Spaghetti Westerns with actors that included Jack Palance.

Ann was diagnosed four years ago with leukemia, and Mary – a high school administrator since the 1990s – decided to write a book about her sister’s treatment and recovery. The talks that followed for “The Phone Rang: How three sisters navigate the destructive path of leukemia” (amazon.com and drmaryreidgaudio.com) gave the sisters, including third sister, Chee, time to catch up on their adventurous lives and provide others with far-flung families the sense of what fighting cancer can be like long-distance.

Q. You say the book was cathartic.

I wanted to celebrate here because when you’re so sick, you get depressed. It gave us a purpose to come together.

Q. In the midst of treatment, your mom, Maribell, died three years ago at age 96.

Still, we kept celebrating Ann’s life. In all the horrendous, emotional times, we laughed a lot, we talked all the time on the phone, we reminisced about my mom and we constantly got together and surrounded my sister with family, parties and celebrations. We would celebrate every good thing that happened – and we’re still doing that. It’s helping my sister stay positive.

Q. You’re donating a portion of the book proceeds to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, where Ann was treated, and We Spark. What’s that?

Ann goes to We Spark when she’s here (in Southern California). Wendie Jo Sperber started it after she got breast cancer. She died in 2005. She was on “Bosom Buddies” with Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks is on the board. It’s a really, really excellent organization and support group.

Q. What is some of the practical advice in the book for someone who might be on a similar journey with a family member?

Communicate. Communicate well. Communicate regularly. Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind. We talk to each other frankly and figure out what things need to be said – kindly.

– Scott Scanlon

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