TPHS sponsors ‘Marie Tree’

TPHS sponsors ‘Marie Tree’ for principal’s assistant amid battle with cancer

By: Amanda Del Buono Tinley Junction

During the tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 5, some may have noticed a unique addition to this year’s lineup of Tinley Park Chamber of Commerce sponsored trees. Covered in pink garland, pink ribbon, pink poinsettias, pink ornaments, and much more, this tree stands out from the rest. The sign in front of it simply reads, “Tree sponsored by TPHS, The Marie Tree,” but there’s much more to this tree.

 The Marie Tree, as it’s affectionately called, was sponsored by Tinley Park High School in honor of Marie Prutsman, the assistant to principal Theresa Nolan, who has been fighting breast cancer since 2015.

 Prutsman has worked at TPHS for about two decades, first as an assistant to the science department supervisor, then moving to assistant to the principal, where she’s stayed for nearly a dozen years.

 “Marie and I have had a long tenure together, and I think like in any good organization, let’s be honest, the secretaries and the assistants definitely run the operation. For a long time, she has been running the operation,” said Theresa Nolan, principal of TPHS. “She’s not just my assistant. We’re friends. I consider her like my sister … it’s definitely not just a typical employer-employee relationship. I feel like Marie is definitely part of my family.”

 As such, Prutsman’s “Titan family” has been a strong support system for her throughout her battle with cancer, she said in an email.

 “My breast cancer journey started in September 2015, the first time anyway. After surgery, chemo and radiation, I was again diagnosed the day before Thanksgiving in 2017, which meant more surgeries, more chemotherapy and radiation,” Prustman said.

 She added that after completing chemo for just six weeks, it was discovered that the cancer had metastasized into her bones. Prustman tried several medicines but unfortunately none worked. She then entered a clinical trial, which kept the cancer contained for awhile, she said. Now, she will begin a new regimen.

 “The support that the Titan Family has given me over the years is truly remarkable, for that I am blessed,” Prustman said.

 Although Nolan and the school have showed their support for Prutsman throughout the years, Nolan always has her eye out for new ways to support Prutsman. As the president of the Chamber of Commerce, she saw that opportunity in sponsoring a tree in honor of Prutsman.

 With funding from the school’s Business Professionals of America and help from about 10 TPHS faculty and staff who work closely with Prutsman, the Marie Tree went from an idea to reality.

 “I might be a little biased when I say this, but it turned out beautiful. The tree looks amazing,” Nolan said. “We took some pictures after [decorating it], and were like, ‘Wow, that tree is beautiful,’ and, you know what? My Marie is beautiful, and she has just fought like a champ and has definitely suffered through this and sometimes you want to do something nice to say, ‘We did this for you. We love you. Keep fighting. Even though you’re not physically here at school with us, this is something that says we’re proud of you and we’re willing to share that with the whole community.’”

 The sentiment came as a surprise to Prutsman, who hasn’t yet been able to see the tree in person due to her treatment regime.

 “While I have only seen the tree in pictures so far, I am beyond touched,” she said in an email to The Junction. “My first reaction was to cry, which I did. As long as this journey has been, to know that I am still so supported and so loved makes such a difference.”

 Although she appreciates the sentiment, Prutsman said that she hopes that members of the community can take something more away from it.

 “When people see the ‘Marie Tree’ I want them to walk away with a feeling of strength, and that with the right people, support and prayers for whatever they are going through, that things just might turn out OK,” she said in the email.

 Nolan also hopes that the Marie Tree will touch community members on a personal level, as well.

 “It’s also kind of something special for everybody, because I find it hard to believe that there’s even a person walking around out there that hasn’t had some kind of connection to cancer,” Nolan said. “So, it doesn’t matter that it’s called the Marie Tree, I think anybody who’s dealing with how hard it is, whether they’re going through it themselves or it’s a family member or whatever it may be that’s struggling with this awful illness, they see it and take a moment and maybe personalizes it for them.”

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2020 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.