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Springs Into Action

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON — August 24, 2004 – There are things you just do for family.
Marie Wingert knows her sister isn’t the kind of woman who airs her dirty laundry.
But this time, Wingert doesn’t care – she just wants something, anything that can help her baby sister out.
Wingert and Janice Mastro grew up in Callicoon. The daughters of Joan and Leonard Gabel Sr., they are both graduates of Delaware Valley Central School and have a brother, sisters, cousins and other relatives scattered around the county.
When Mastro went into the hospital for routine surgery last month, she found out she had much more.
A diagnosis of mullerian adenosarcoma, a rare cancer that affects a woman’s reproductive system, sent the entire family into shock and Wingert into action.
She started making phone calls to friends and family members asking for baked goods, and she set up a table at the Callicoon Street Fair with a sign listing Janice’s name and requesting donations.
By the end of the day, she had nearly $1,000 to hand over to her sister, and dozens of offers of help.
"The people that came out for her, it’s amazing," Wingert said, tears forming in the corner of her blue eyes – eyes she shares with her sister. "People were giving me $5 for a brownie – it was just so touching."
So far, the family doesn’t know what this diagnosis means to Mastro. She’s worked at the Villa Roma for more than 20 years, but she doesn’t have insurance. And her husband, Dan, works for another local small business – he doesn’t have insurance either.
The people at the Villa took up a collection for her – Wingert said Janice was “overwhelmed” by the generosity of her co-workers and Villa owner Marty Passante.
But this disease is keeping her from work.
Mastro is scheduled to head to Sloan Kettering soon for meetings with doctors – this cancer diagnosis was so shocking, even the hospital where she was having surgery didn’t know how to react.
"They don’t know what to do with her," Wingert said. "They’ve never seen this."
The hardest part for Wingert to fathom is how this could have happened to her sister – Janice never showed any sign of being sick. Doctors said if they hadn’t opened her up for surgery, they wouldn’t have even known the cancer was lurking in her abdominal cavity.
"The nurse said to me it’s a silent one – there are no signs," Wingert said.
"It’s scary . . . ," she added, trailing off. "I’m older than she is."
Mastro is just 42 – she still has a teenaged daughter living at home. Danielle is 16. Mastro’s oldest child, Amber Rae, graduated from high school several years ago and no longer lives with her mom in Callicoon.
But she and the rest of the family are gathering around Mastro in her time of need – struggling to come to terms not only with her diagnosis but with the loss of the family patriarch two weeks ago at age 79.
Wingert said her sister is in good spirits – she worried more about their dad, Leonard Sr., than she did herself.
But Wingert is practical about the future. She knows this is going to take a lot – she’s spoken with other people who’ve battled cancer, and they’ve told her the costs they’ve already encountered are just the tip of the iceberg. If Mastro needs chemotherapy, which doctors have already suggested, they’re going to be facing massive bills with no help from an insurance company.
She’s already planned another bake sale and 50/50 raffle, set for this Saturday from 4-7 p.m. during the Jazzfest in Callicoon Creek Park.
Anyone who can’t make it can send donations straight to Wingert to be placed in a fund she’s set up for her sister. Checks should be made out to Marie Wingert, with the Janice Gabel Mastro Fund written in the memo area. Checks can be mailed to Wingert at her home: 591 Plank Road, Beach Lake, PA 18405.
Asked why she’s set aside her own life to organize fundraisers for her sister, Wingert seemed surprised.
"Who else will do it?" she asked. "She’s my sister, it’s family – you do what you have to for family.
"Besides," she added, "if it was me, she’d do it. But she wouldn’t ask for herself, she wouldn’t do this. She’s too selfless."
To help Wingert, call her at 570-729-7217.

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