Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A woman undergoing chemotherapy gets a special message from a stranger

Mary Fran Lyons circa 2003.
Mary Fran Lyons
Mary Fran Lyons circa 2003.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

In 2003, Mary Fran Lyons was going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. One day after a treatment session, she went to the mall to have lunch. Lyons had lost all her hair, so she was wearing a baseball cap.

“You didn't have to look at me very hard to know things were not quite right,” Lyons said.

As she was walking along, looking at the stores, a woman approached her. She told her something that Lyons will never forget.

“She said, ‘I've been sent to tell you that you're going to be OK,’” Lyons remembered.

“I stood there and looked at her and I thought, ‘Well, who sent you? I mean, who are you?’ And I did not say anything. And she said it again: 'You're going to be OK.’”

Then the woman simply walked away. Lyons watched her leave, trying to understand what had just happened. But nothing about the woman stood out.

"She looked like a completely normal human being,” Lyons recalled. “I never met her before, never heard of her since.”

Later, Lyons told a good friend about her unusual encounter.

“And she said, ‘Do you believe in angels?’" Lyons recalled. “And I said, ‘I do now.’”

More than 20 years later, Lyons continues to hold the experience close.

“If that woman were standing in front of me right now, I would say to her, ‘You gave me hope at a time when I really needed to hear it,’” Lyons said.

“And I still think of that to this day.”

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to

Copyright 2024 NPR

Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]