Saturday 25th June 2022

Women Of Courage Series. #57 Marsha Ingrao. 68/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #57 Marsha Ingrao. 68/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

In the world of blogging we can ‘meet’ people virtually and make a pretty instant connection. I found this to be the case in early 2021 when Marsha Ingrao who is 69 began hosting Sunday Stills while another blogging friend from the US was moving into her new home. From my on-line emails and messages with Marsha as I learned more about her and her life, I had hoped she would agree to share her story as a Woman of Courage. And I was delighted with here response of “yes, I will”. Welcome Marsha and thank you for sharing your story



What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

  • I had a birth defect – bilateral cleft lip, which is still fairly rare. From birth I had several surgeries including spending my first month in the hospital. This did not require any courage on my part. But it did change me.


  • When I was 15 and my brother was 13, we moved with Mom from Indiana to Oregon where we didn’t know anyone. Mom didn’t have a job. I was a junior in high school, and my brother was in 7th grade. My brother and I made the choice of where to go rather than to stay behind with our father or grandparents. It was the best decision of our lives.


  • My first husband had major health problems. He and his sister both had rare and genetic disease. Less than six months into our marriage, he broke his hip which deteriorated until he could not sit, stand or walk without extreme pain. We had no insurance. I was petrified, but his aunt found us a surgeon. At age 27 he had his first hip replacement, and the second one at age 29. His only sister died at age 35. I was 25 at the time, married for two years and lived with the fear that my husband would probably live maybe five more years. He lived eighteen more years and passed away at age 47 with heart, kidney, liver, and lung disease caused from the same missing enzymes that caused his joints to deteriorate.


  • Before Mark’s second hip surgery, we had no money coming in for a while. He couldn’t work and he did not want to have surgery again. Our pastor advised that I should quit working at my less than minimum wage job and let God provide through Mark. My husband was furious about this idea, but I wasn’t making enough to make ends meet anyway and I felt a sense of relief. I quit selling magazines door to door, and God supplied us with inheritance money and back disability checks enough to keep us going for over a year.


  • Finishing school. Neither of us had finished our four year degree when we married. I had started right out of high school, but quit when my scholarship ran out. I finished my associates degree after we were married, and was offered another scholarship and a position at Oregon State so that I could also earn my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration. Mark also wanted to go to school and get his degree in Ministerial Studies from a college in Colorado Springs.


  • We sold everything and moved to Colorado and I waited until we moved to California and established residency there before I was able to pick up my education again. Eventually we both achieved our goals. He became a pastor and I earned my Master’s Degree and Administrative Credential and taught school, then moved into administration.


  • Having breast cancer. Actually I think I sailed through that recent obstacle, so far. The three surgeries were fairly easy, medication was not even though I did not have to go through chemo and radiation. I still have at least four to six more years of medicine, but I think it’s finally manageable.


How did these change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

  • My name, Marsha, comes from the name Mars, the Roman god of war and courage. I expect to and usually do overcome obstacles and win my wars.


  • I had to develop a positive attitude from the time I was a child to overcome shyness and make friends. I am sensitive, so I have to be careful not to take myself too seriously and get over myself when my feelings get hurt.


  • As a result, before I retired, it was sometimes hard to get others to take me seriously.


  • I am friendly. Without our many friends and family, Mark and I would not have survived.


  • I learned to work hard and both my husband and I achieved all our career goals and were married for 20 years before he passed. My second husband is also a hard worker, and I’ve learned a lot from him about precision and pushing beyond my best efforts. We have been married for 25 years.


  • I have a hard time quitting – even when I should. I hang on way too long because I see quitting as losing instead of being sensible and recognizing that I could be using my time and talents in other ways.


Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

  • I wish that you didn’t need courage. But we all do. I rely on God, my friends and family and their prayers. People have always been kind and supportive of me.


Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I don’t know.

  • It’s hard to believe I have lived through the difficult times that I have. I think in a way you compartmentalize your problems and live outside and above your difficulties. I don’t know many people who throw themselves into dangerous situations just to be brave.


  • Trials happen to us and we deal with them as they come. I thank God for the times I don’t have to be brave.

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

-Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Get help!


-Give to others. This might be a kind word, a meal, a smile, a prayer, or a million dollars. Give what you have.

-Love and appreciate everyone, especially those who help you.

-Be positive but not phony, find someone to whom you can vent when you get hit with too much reality.

-Exercise as much as you can.

-Eat healthy food

-Don’t feel guilty about what you can’t do.

-Blog – tell your story, get involved in the stories of others.

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. For example a website or help line.

  • For breast cancer I recommend my friend Abigail Johnston’s website. No Half Measures.
  • For difficulties in marriage I recommend finding a good counselor. I’ve had two secular counselors (not pastors) that helped me deal with difficult situations. I would ask friends rather than use the web.
  • Get involved with a local church. We used the internet when we moved here because we didn’t know anyone.
  • Get a doctor who cares about you. Again, word of mouth is better than a website, but I used both when we moved.


Marsha put in some kind words at the end of her story and I believe that they are worth sharing. I am very proud to have been able to share these stories, so generously given to me here on the blog.

Thank you so much for this honor to be called a woman of courage. What a wonderful thing you are doing by honoring women. Thank you for all you do for our Blogging community, Denyse. You are a blessing and an inspiration.

Thank you, we are all connected, and I am glad for that.




Social Media: for Marsha





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This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 – All rights reserved.



  1. How wonderful to read more of Marsha’s story, Denyse! I’m proud to call her a dear, close friend and we have much in common. Marsha is strong and adventurous and is an amazing writer and photographer. She makes a mean potroast, too. Looking forward to more in the series!

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      It is a privilege to have women respond to my request to share their stories of courage, and I am always appreciative.

      I am so glad you are good friends with Marsha. Indeed it’s wonderful connection I could see via the sharing the Sunday Stills for a period. Calling on a blogging buddy to help out is awesome.

      Yes, Marsha does share examples of so much courage which have helped shape the person she is and who cares for others very much.

      It’s through your blog, Terri, that I came to know Marsha!

      Thanks for introducing us.


    • LOL, Terri. Thanks for the kind words. Funny story, that photo was taken for a church directory. I cried because I looked so old in it and my hair looked so funky. Vince wanted to buy the photos and I thought they were horrible, but we don’t have professional photos taken very often. He won, of course. Now that I’m older than the photos, they look fine to me. They’ll do for another ten years or so! I used to think it was so funny when OLD people were so sensitive and showed only pictures of themselves that were twenty years old or so. Now, I get it!

  2. Thank you so much Denyse. I have posted a widget in my footer attaching to this post, and I will write a short post tomorrow that will link to the post as well and explain the program. Again, thank you for the honor of the interview. It was cathartic. 🙂

  3. This was another great example of courage Marsha and Denyse – thank you both! I learnt so much about Marsha and her ways of coping with a lot of what life has thrown at her. Fabulous series Denyse and I agree with Marsha’s words, you are both inspirational women.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      How kind you are Deb.

      Thanks for your comment about our mutual friend via blogging!

      Getting to know people from around the world is part of the joy and rewards from blogging.

      Yes, Marsha’s story was a great example of how there are many times in our lives, no matter what the age, when courage is what is called for and we can do it.


    • Thank you, Debbie. It takes one to know one! LOL. I’m posting a link in your Story Chat to your inspirational story. We are all honored by Denyse through this series. She is helping to build strong friendships. 🙂 I have an interview post coming up with Denyse on June 11th emphasizing her ability to build friendships.

      • Thanks very much for that Marsha! Looking forward to reading your interview with Denyse 🙂

        • I know it will be awesome because Marsha is a very thorough, thoughtful and percetive writer and human! Me, it’s about the story I shared. Marsha has had the ability to see more than I can and that’s her gift.


  4. Robbie Cheadle says:

    Hi Denyse, it is lovely to see Marsha here and to learn so much more about her. I knew about her breast cancer and her triumph over this horrible disease but I didn’t know about the other difficulties she has faced during her life. She is a brave and inspirational woman.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Robbie. She is indeed someone who inspires us with her courage and her story. She is such a kind woman and I have only “known” her via this blogging world we inhabit.

      How fortunate are those who can count Marsha as a friend.

      I really appreciate you commenting too. Love having new friends visit my blog.

      Warm wishes


    • Thanks, Robbie. Life throws bumps at us all, doesn’t it? It’s amazing how we get anything accomplished. I’m always astounded at all you are able to do. 🙂 I appreciate Denyse for bringing us all together to recognize and honor each other’s strengths. That’s what makes women strong. 🙂 Lots of love to you Robbie.

  5. I really enjoyed learning more about Marsha’s life story. She is definitely a woman of courage! She had some great suggestions to help others who are experiencing challenges. My favorites: ” Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Get help!” and “Don’t feel guilty” are two biggies… and often forgotten in the midst of dealing with stressful situations.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Oh yes Janis, I too learn from each woman who shares her story.

      Marsha has so much to be proud of in her life because she has overcome much adversity, and has never given up.

      The ‘get help” and “don’t feel guilty” are great message for us all aren’t they?

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog to comment. Lovely to have you do so.

      Warm wishes

    • Thanks for the kind words, Janis. Getting help is sometimes hard to take. My mother was pretty frail in her older years but she would almost punch you in the face if you tried to help her into the car. LOL. (Not really, but she gave her mother stare over her glasses.) Her favorite way of getting help was by saying, “We need to …” That meant “YOU need to do…”

      Thanks for reading and joining in with Denyse’s wonderful project here of honoring women. I am humbled to be among the many who have accomplished so much with their lives in spite of the obstacles that life hurled at them.

      • I too am humbled by the truth telling & in its rawness, the kindness and the connections each woman sharing her story has brought to those who read and connect.


  6. I just love this whole series so much! I completely agree that it seems like we live outside our difficulties and compartmentalize so much of what we have been through. I know I was completely stumped to even think of a time when I was courageous and yet I know there have been times, particularly as a young wife and mother, that I was really scared about the future and what was to come but just had to keep on moving through life anyway. Marsha’s stories and advice were really inspiring to read. Thank you, Denyse for hosting!

    • Thank you for reading, Joanne. I think being scared about the future is the norm when we are young and responsible for young lives. It takes so much courage to face what we don’t know especially when someone gets sick or hurt or you lose your job or husband’s job and don’t have a safety net. There is much to fear. In all we have to trust in something greater than ourselves and we have to lean on each other. The good news, as you said, is that we just “keep moving through life anyway.” I love that.

    • Dear Joanne, I am so glad you are now seeing how in your life too, there are many times you too can consider your times of particular courage. They are in the chapters of our lives. We share the stories of those chapters on our blogs.

      Thank you for becoming a member of this community of bloggers because you bring your stories of life and they are valued .


  7. Great stuff Denyse & Marsha, I knew you both had “texture” and figured there had to be stories behind both of you. My mom fought cancer twice. She won an early battle with breast cancer in the 60s, but the therapy used caused a lung cancer right after Y2K. I saw how strong she became and you both would have loved her. Lots of love and insight and drive to help others.

    • Oh G, that is so kind and thank you for those words.

      We never actually know what we can bring to our lives when we face immense life challenges. I was actually driven to make big changes as a result of my cancer. I do think that I would have loved to have connected with your mother!

      Sending my best to you today.


    • G, I’m so sorry about your mother. I’m sure we would have loved her. Lung cancer is one of the big dangers with breast cancer, I understand. So far, I’m cancer free, but it’s amazing how many more doctor’s appointments I have now. It seems like I’m constantly scheduling around them. I hope you have been doing your cancer checks. I was not surprised when it hit me because my family has all had cancer and lived to be quite old anyway. I’ve been taking precautionary measures since my forties. It paid off. They caught my cancer in its inception. Thanks for commenting here. Have a wonderful week. 🙂

  8. Thank you, Marsha, for sharing your story. You’ve overcome many obstacles. Brava! Very good advice that you wrote in your interview, too e.g. Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Get help! -Give to others. Thank you, Denyse, for linking this with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Yes, I agree, Marsha’s post spoke to many of us re that!

      Thank you Natalie.


    • Hi Natalie, Thanks so much for the comment. It’s an honor to have been part of Denyse’s project even though I don’t feel that I’ve been particularly courageous. I would hope that I could save someone’s life or make a huge impact on someone who is struggling. As it is, like many others, I mostly survive and love the life given to me.

  9. Nice. I am learning about Marsha a little bit from her blog. It’s nice to learn even more interesting things about her obstacles and what she’s overcome through this interview and post.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much for commenting about Marsha on this series of Women of Courage, Susan.


    • Hi Susan, Thanks for reading Denyse’s interview. I probably shared TMI, but I hope it helps. No one emerges from life without a few bruises and scratches. I’ve been fortunate to have support and love throughout my life. I credit God’s protection for that. 🙂 Have a wonderful day and rest of the week. 🙂