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Students Raise Over $33K to Cover Medical Bills for Beloved Cafeteria Worker Diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer: ‘She Takes Care of Us’

Students at Drake University rallied around a beloved cafeteria worker during her time of need and saw great results.

After finding out about the lunch lady’s cancer diagnosis, students started a GoFundMe to help pay a portion of her medical bills not covered by insurance, raising more than double their goal in just a week.

Marietta Jackson, a Des Moines native, has stage 3 ovarian cancer and has been in and out of the hospital since her diagnosis. Time in the hospital means time away from her job at the Hubbell Dining Hall on the school’s campus. It also means time away from the students she considers her adopted family.

Drake University students raise money to help cafeteria worker with cancer.
Drake University students raise money to help a cafeteria worker, Marietta Jackson, who has been diagnosed with cancer. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/WFAA)

For 15 years, the bubbly Jackson has been like a bonus parent to Drake students, affirming them while school is in session and they are miles away from home.

“They love me. I love them too. They know I’m their mom away from home,” she said in an interview with KCCI.

Jackson knows many of the students by their names and greets them with a smile from the cashier’s desk.

“She is an amazing woman. She is always so kind. She takes care of us and always makes you feel special,” said Chris Davis, a student.

Her genuine care for them is reciprocated by many of them. Another student named Maggie Bair started a crowdfunding campaign after finding out that behind her cheerful disposition, Jackson was struggling with an ugly disease.

According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, ovarian cancer can be debilitating to women, but it is not a death sentence. Jackson is in stage 3, which has an average five-year survival rate met by 41 percent of the women with the disease. Treatment and general health care are key in fighting this particular cancer, which is why making sure Jackson can afford her care is critical.

In the GoFundMe description, Bair said Jackson was dedicated to her work, balancing the act of cleaning the dining room space and greeting everyone she encounters with a beaming smile.

“Marietta volunteers herself in other areas when help is needed because that’s just the kind of person she is,” the GoFundMe post reads. “But Marietta’s impact goes far beyond the walls of Hubble Dining Hall.”

The GoFundMe was set up on March 21 to help her with the expenses of battling her cancer.

According to Health Cost Helper, treating ovarian cancer can be pricey. Someone without insurance could pay anywhere from $20,000 for treatment or $200,000 for surgery. Typically, treatment is covered by most health insurance, but some plans won’t cover certain drugs or treatments.

In a little over one week, $33,000 was raised for Jackson, double the original goal.

One anonymous donor dropped $2,500 into the pot. Multiple people donated $500, while others gave as little as $15.

Anthony Leto gave because “Marietta has always been a warm and kind face greeting all that enter Hubbell Dining Hall.”

He said, “Her positivity is appreciated, and so hopefully her financial burden will be eased as well as her heart warmed as she receives the good that she has given to others.”

Jeannette Allers, a parent donated to the fund because of her daughter’s feelings for Jackson.

“When I asked her about Marietta her response was ‘Marietta is the best!!!’” she wrote, before wishing her “strength and courage” as she fights for her health.

With all the attention Jackson has received, she says she is incredibly grateful. She said she can’t find the words to express how thankful she is.

“I feel their prayers, and I am truly blessed. Thank you so much. I don’t even know how to say thank you. Thank you,” she said with a smile.

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