Megan Mathie is a glassblowing artist in the Hot Glass Show aboard Celebrity Solstice®, and she previously performed the same role aboard Celebrity Eclipse®. Earlier this year, Megan was informed that both her sister and her mother were diagnosed with breast cancer, and she flew home to spend time with them. As time passed, however, both convinced her to return to the ship and to continue her work. Determined to support the cause, Megan and her team now host a “Hot Pink Glass Show” on every sailing. There, she shares her story with her audience through her artwork, in honor of her sister and her mother. At each cruise’s end, she auctions a one-of-a-kind pink glass creation to raise funds for Celebrity’s charitable partner, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®.
We recently caught up with Megan for more insight into her touching story.
In December, I scheduled my second contract working with Celebrity Cruises for the Corning Museum of Glass. I couldn’t have been more excited to come back and immerse myself in a body of artwork, while sharing the wonder of glassblowing with new audiences. I feel like the Hot Glass Show is a job I was born to do and this opportunity feels like such a gift.
In my life, I have been so, so fortunate.
In March, everything in my life stopped. My big sister Jen, who was just 32 years old, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. It took my family out at the knees. Jen did everything right; she had health insurance, she always had her annual exams, and she was a mom to a five-year-old and a 10-month-old. Her medical team thinks she had her cancer for 7 to 10 years, and we don’t understand how they didn’t find it sooner.
I live in Columbus and Jen lives in Cincinnati, which is two hours away. Upon hearing the news, I dropped everything and started spending four days a week at Jen’s house, looking after my little nieces and taking care of Jen’s laundry, meals, and her home. I left my work, my new house, and my husband to be there for my sister. Jen’s network came together; she found a nanny, and everyone stepped in to love her and our family. Eventually, though, Jen put her foot down and told me to go on my contract on the Solstice, and that she did not need me in Ohio. She promised me that she would be here when I came home. She told me that cancer is something that we will be fighting as a family for years to come, and that we needed to live with cancer and not die from it.
I resolved that I would go. Then, just weeks later, we received another blow. In May, my mom, who had just turned 60 years old, was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer. I was in disbelief and I was so angered by this. I thought to myself, “Mom is a nurse. She does everything right. She has had her annual mammograms like clockwork.” Yet, there we were, less than 90 days after Jen’s diagnosis, and we found out that Mom was sick, too.
I am the baby in my family – the youngest of three girls. Never mind that I am 28 years old, I need my big sisters. I need my mom. I can’t describe to you the fear that this struck in my heart that they are fighting for their lives. But, they are FIGHTING.
I told my mom that I was going to stay home and that I didn’t want to go on the ship. Then, she, Jen, and my husband, Chris, told me that I had to go. They didn’t want me crying in the hospital. They wanted me to take this opportunity and dive into my artwork. They wanted me to travel and they wanted me to share my stories. I protested, I cried, and they sent me on the ship anyway. I was so scared. I still am so scared. What if something bad happens?
On Tuesday, July 17, Mom had a double mastectomy surgery. That Wednesday, I had lunch with my mom, my dad, and my two big sisters in Mom’s hospital room. On Friday, July 20, I left Ohio for Barcelona to embark on Celebrity Solstice. I was ready to be sad and homesick for three months. I was ready to be lonely. The thing about cancer, though, is that it comes with some pretty incredible gifts. Cancer shows us love. My sister calls it crushing love. And it is. I needed support. I needed love. And from the moment I came on board this ship, I have felt loved.
My family is good, with an ache in the word good, and I miss them so much. Nonetheless, we know that geography has nothing to do with how close we are to one another. Here, on Celebrity Solstice, I also have another family. One that is brand new and full of energy, warmth and caring hearts. This family doesn’t know Jen or my mom, but they are sharing my journey and holding me up. On Jen’s birthday in August, just a week before her double mastectomy surgery, the Ringmasters, our a cappella quartet, sang “Happy Birthday” into my phone at 1 a.m., so that Jen could hear it at 7 p.m., in Ohio. When we received scary news about Jen’s cancer-fighting drugs damaging her heart, my dear new friend stayed up with me all night while I cried and processed my fears. My Solstice family hugged me and held my hand when I saw a photo of Mom with no hair for the first time. My Solstice family also has a celebration and a toast with every cancer milestone: when Jen finished chemo, when Mom started chemo, when Jen survived her surgery with clear margins. They follow Jen’s blog and they follow Mom’s blog. They ask about Mom and Jen every time they know I have had a phone call home. The friendships came fast, but they are real and they are loving.
My glass team has a Hot Pink Glass Show every cruise, where I get to make a special vessel that tells my cancer story through my artwork. I get to talk about my family, talk about how important it is to be vigilant and look for this disease, and I do my very best to embody living with cancer and not dying from it. I invest so much love into that artwork. I literally shed tears while making each one the most beautiful glass I’ve ever blown. I do it for Jen and I do it for Mom. At the end of each cruise, I get to auction that pink vessel away for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has a partnership with Celebrity Cruises.
The best part is that when I share my family’s cancer journey, I make connections. Every cruise, there have been people sharing their story of survival or loss with me, and more and more people loving Mom and Jen. Crushing love.
Here I am, so far from home, but helping. In a real way. A way that will keep them alive, healthy and beating cancer for years to come. The medicine in their lives is so essential, and I get to contribute funds so directly.
The doubts I had about whether I was meant to be here on this ship went away when I learned that I would get to make this glass, tell this story, and help fight this fight. I get to be an artist who’s surrounded by loving hearts at sea, I get to feel my family loving me from across the ocean, and I get to fight cancer.
In my life, I am so, so fortunate.