Unbreakable spirit: Mariah Roat’s fight


William Rohrs, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Mariah Roat wanted to be in marketing. In her fourth year at Santa Rosa Junior College, this should have been the semester she got her associate’s degree in business marketing. But something went wrong: early in the semester she felt stomach pains and didn’t sleep well for weeks.

“It felt like I was being stabbed,” she said.

A single phone call from her doctor was all it took to turn her life upside-down a second time.

In October this year Mariah found out she had colon cancer. She went through surgery to remove a part of her colon. Unfortunately, post-operation scans revealed the cancer already spread to her lymph nodes.

Mariah went from a perfectly healthy college student to a stage four cancer patient in less then a month.

Mariah lost her mother to cancer in middle school. When she was 19, her father died of liver failure. For three years she provided for herself by working at the Cantina, now La Rosa Tequileria & Grille, on Fourth Street. While she worked and studied on her own, Mariah loved outdoor activities. “I really like running and biking in parks,” she said. “Anything to get me outside and active.”

Since losing her parents, Mariah surrounded herself with a new family. Darren Chapple, CEO and part owner of La Rosa, retained Mariah after he and his partners bought the Cantina. “She’s always had good energy. She makes this place family,” he said. “Mariah basically came with the building and there isn’t a single bad bone in her body.”

For three years Mariah waited tables, making friends with customers and staff. Mariah has a reputation for being kind and energetic, interactive and friendly to patrons. No one could mistake the beautiful, graceful woman gliding between tables for anyone but Mariah Roat.

Isabel Butler met Mariah at La Rosa. Butler’s dedicated time and energy into taking care of her since she waited with her through Mariah’s first night in the hospital. “She’s a very friendly and bubbly person. Once you meet her, you’ll instantly fall in love with her,” Butler said. “She’s obviously really scared, but she’s staying herself.”

Mariah’s days deteriorated from working and studying to lying in bed, barely having enough energy to walk.  After losing nearly 30 pounds, she could barely eat most days. Today Mariah may be smaller than usual but her attitude certainly hasn’t diminished. She only recently had the energy to get out of bed, but she made the effort to greet people whenever they showed up at her door.

Each story she told was followed by her laughter, ringing clear and light through the house. Stepping gingerly, she walked around, grabbing various medicine bottles and vitamin packets for her morning routine. Her roommates and friends look after her and cook her meals. They are all the support she has.

Butler makes sure friends can see Mariah whenever she has the energy to entertain guests. Near Halloween, Butler organized a girl’s night where buses took the girls out and they carved pumpkins.

The cancer completely changed Mariah’s diet. She’s juicing more, by choice, and converted to a fully vegan diet. She’s eating less processed food to help her digestion. A friend was cooking for her in the kitchen, and the yams and country potatoes on her plate made the whole house smell earthy and sweet.

One of Mariah’s roommates, Anita Prum, couldn’t stop tears from rolling down her cheeks when she talked about Mariah.

“She’s one of the strongest people that I know. She’s an amazing human being,” she said between glances at her friend.

In lieu of chemo-therapy, which remains a last resort option, Mariah wants to pursue a holistic treatment first to try and fight off the cancer. Dr. Isaac Eliaz of the Amitabha Medical Clinic in Sebastopol prescribed a cocktail of different vitamins and supplements to boost Mariah’s immune system. “They give me shots for my immune system, vitamin C infusions. They induce a fever to kill off cancer cells, give me acupuncture and I see a chiropractor,” she said. Every morning she opens dozens of boxes and bottles and takes pill after pill with breakfast.

“My PET scan came back positive, so the doctors are holding chemotherapy until December,” Mariah said. Her mother died undergoing chemotherapy and she’s concerned about the death rate and side effects the treatment is known for.

A college student living on her own, working a single job cannot begin to cover the cost just for chemotherapy alone, not even including holistic treatment. The fundraiser site Give Forward has a campaign for Mariah, hoping to raise $500,000 to cover her medical bills and provide financial relief.

La Rosa has a link to the campaign on its website and donors can visit www.larosasantarosa.com to find the campaign on their home page.

La Rosa is pulling out all the stops to help Mariah fight for her life. On Nov. 21, the restaurant is putting 100 percent of all sales towards Mariah’s fundraiser. Every waiter, waitress, host, hostess, busser and cook plans to donate all of his or her tips and work for free during the event.  Chapple made deals with several beneficiaries and created a silent auction with all proceeds going to Mariah to accompany the food sales. Auction items include paintings from local artists and items from several businesses in Santa Rosa.

To compliment the day of food and auctions, Chapple is unveiling La Rosa’s new menu to the public. He organized chefs to come and serve hors d’oeuvres throughout the day. Local bands will play acoustic music in the newly designed club upstairs.

“She wants to come back to work. That’s what’s so endearing about her. She’s precious to us and she’s a wonderful person,” Chapple said.

Truly extraordinary people are made through their worst moments. Mariah Roat lost both her parents. She developed stage four colon cancer. Some days she can barely get up. She’s thin, fragile­­—and yet she carries herself with such charisma and energy it masks the severity of her condition. Mariah is anything but ordinary.