One of her jobs is to brighten the days of so many little students at Odenville Elementary School as they come through the lunch line. The only way one could tell Colley is battling breast cancer is to see she has lost all of her hair from the chemotherapy treatments she is taking.
For the past seven years, Colley, 50, has worked in the Odenville school lunchroom and has brighten the days of hundreds and hundreds of students.
Her world changed when she went for a mammogram back in May and cancer was discovered in one of her breasts.
One of the hardest things Colley had to do was tell her family, especially her mother, Elowise Perry.
“She was sitting at her table and when I told her, she started hollering and crying,” Colley recalled. “I told her not to cry but just pray and that it would be OK. I have a twin sister and a brother but I never cried because I knew I had to be strong for them.
“I think God placed this on me because I don’t think any of the rest of them could have took it. I couldn’t cry even if I wanted to because my family is always looking at me. If I break, they are going to break. So I just trust in God and ask God to keep me and hold me. It’s going to be okay.”
Colley, who lives in Margaret, has two children and one grandchild. Surgery was scheduled for June 15 at St. Vincent’s in Birmingham. The surgery was successful and now Colley is halfway through chemotherapy treatments and then six weeks of radiation treatments every day.
“My co-workers are so good to me,” Colley said. “They know that one minute I feel just fine and the next minute, all my energy can be zapped from me. The body just shuts down and you never know when or where it will happen.”
OES Principal Christa Urban said Colley is just an amazing lady.
“What makes were amazing is her strong faith in the Lord,” Urban said. “She loves these children at the school unconditionally.
“The kids were so ecstatic to be part of the ‘Pink Day’ for her. A large majority of our faculty and students wore pink her first day back in support of her because she supports our students each and every day. She makes a point to go around in the lunchroom to give hugs and love to these children. She wants to make sure she is an important part of their day. She is a very strong lady and we are very blessed to have her back at our school with us.”
Those who work closest with Colley are the lunchroom ladies who absolutely adore her.
Lisa Woods said Colley is a very sweet lady who has Jesus in her heart and a smile on her face.
“She loves the kids, she loves us and we love her,” Woods said.
Sharon Smith said her first memory of Colley was her first day at work.
“Apparently, Ms. Shirley Robertson always picked on Maralyn and called her ‘her niece,’” said Smith. “When Shirley retired, Maralyn told me I had to start being the niece but I started calling Maralyn ‘my cuz’ because that meant we were cousins. I do not know how I would make it without her because she is great.”
Karen Isbell said if Maralyn was having a bad day, no one would ever know it.
“She is a great friend and although she can cook really good, I’m always telling her I’ll be glad when she learns how to cook,” said Isbell.
Denise Suqua said from the day she started working at the OES lunchroom, Maralyn has had a smile on her face and pulled everyone in this lunchroom together.
“She inspires everyone in here,” Suqua said. “It is sad this has happened to her but she will overcome this. It has made us closer to one another.”
Michelle Parker, CNP manager of the OES lunchroom, said Colley is awesome and always at work with a smile on her face.
“She has a great personality and her faith in God alone is enough to let her light shine,” said Parker. “She literally brightens up everyone’s day, not just the workers but the students also. Kids love her and she has a heart for the kids. She is a great employee and a great person all-around.
“She prays for those kids. She is the one we should be pampering but yet she has pampered us more than we have her. She is the one going through this ordeal and yet we are the ones going, ‘Oh my gosh.’ She tells us that she is fine and that helps us.”
Cathy Roll said Maralyn’s life is evident with her first day back at school.
“Every child of every grade level came to love her, wrap their arms around her and tell her how glad they were to have her back,” Roll said. “I love working with her because there is never a bad day. Every day is a great day for Maralyn. She inspires everyone in the lunchroom, children as well as adults.”
Colley’s advice to others who are going through cancer is to not let it worry you or get you down.
“Keep your head up and trust in God,” she said. “This is where your faith comes in. If you believe in God, then this is a test. If you just go home and just cry, then you are defeated and hurting yourself. You’re not going home until the Lord gets ready for you anyway.”
Colley said once she started losing her hair, she wore a scarf, but pulled it off almost as quick as she put it on.
“That wasn’t me,” she said. “People have to accept me for who I am. I just keep going. I love life and I love my family and church family.”
Colley is a member of Mt. Avery Baptist Church in Margaret.
“I thank God for all these kids and all my friends here at the Odenville schools,” Colley said. “My first day back at work, many of the kids and my co-workers all wore pink and that just touched me so much. They all know me as Ms. Star or Best Friend.