NORTH EAST – A few years ago, some of the Maryland State Police troopers assigned to the North East Barrack decided to replace greasy cheeseburgers, salty fries and such with foods that would promote better physical health.
That’s when they started eating regularly at the Subway inside the Walmart near their barrack.
That’s also when they met Heather Brunskill, who, in her own special way, helped reduce any job-related stress the troopers may have been feeling when they showed up there to order their healthy-choice food.
“She brings a smile to your face every time you see her. She is such a pleasant, positive person. To meet her, you would never know some of the hardships she has endured, and the one she is dealing with now. She is always so chipper,” said MSP 1st Sgt. Glen Peterson. “She is just a fun person to catch up with.”
A manager at that Subway for approximately five years, Brunskill recently was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer – a reoccurence of a colon cancer that she battled several years ago, according to Peterson.
“It has spread to other organs,” Peterson explained.
With chemotherapy sessions and other medical procedures in her near future — coupled with the reality that her health likley will decline as she battles the disease — Brunskill reluctantlly took leave from her job at Subway. Brunskill worked her last shift on Dec. 13.
Aware that an economic strain is looming for Brunskill and her family, Peterson and some of his fellow troopers have set up a GoFundMe page to help that family financially as she undergoes her cancer treatment, according to Peterson.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so by visiting gf.me/u/w47n6v. It also can accessed on the GoFundMe website by typing in Help Heather Crush Cancer. The initial goal is to raise $5,000, Peterson noted.
“No donation is too small. Every donation matters. We got one for $7, but all those donations add up,” Peterson emphasized. “She is a member of our community. She is a very nice person, and she is in need.”
Based on Brunskill’s ever-present smile and her uplifting attitude, it’s difficult to detect that she has shouldered some heavy responsibilities and has fought some hard health battles.
“She is a mom in her 40s. She has an adult child and a teenager. Her husband is disabled and is unable to work. She’s been the breadwinner for years, and now she is unable to work because she has Stage 4 cancer,” Peterson outlined. “She had colon cancer and beat it years ago. Recently, she had a reoccurence of that colon cancer and it has mastatasized.”
Money generated through the GoFundMe page is to help the family pay medical insurance deductibles and co-pays, according to Peterson, who further reported that the donations also will be used to pay traveling, food and lodging expenses associated with Brunskill receiving cancer treatments.
Moreover, with Brunskill on medical leave from work, the monetary contributions will help the family pay for groceries and household bills, he explained.
“We want to help offset the family’s burden,” Peterson said, adding, “This is a bad situation whenever it happens, but right before Christmas just makes it tougher.”
The MSP troopers who started patronizing that Subway always looked forward to interacting with Brunskill when they visited the eatery.
“We would ring the (customer service) bell on the counter, just to get her to come out if she happened to be working in the back room when we got there,” Peterson said, before admitting, “Sometimes we would ring it when she was there (at the service counter) just for laughs.”
MSP Cpl. Michael Cox – a member of the healthy-meal group from the barrack — recalled that Brunskill’s demeanor remained perky, regardless of the circumstances, and that she always showed grace under pressure.
“She always had a happy face, no matter what was going on. Even if (employees) didn’t show up and she was there working by herself, she was happy. ‘Upbeat’ is the right word for her,” Cox said. “She was very friendly.”
Peterson told the Cecil Whig that Brunskill is “very appreciative” of how her trooper friends are rallying around her and her family. Brunskill, however, let Peterson know that she preferred not to be interviewed for this article, he said.
The way Peterson sees it, Brunskill is a person who is more accustomed to helping people than to being someone who receives help. That was evident when Peterson saw Brunskill in action recently, not long after she’d been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
“Just the other day, I saw her in the (Walmart) parking lot. She was carrying an order out to a customer’s car. The man was in a wheelchair. She prepared the order for him and then carried the bag out to his car, and helped him get in,” Peterson said.