Noe Valley Voice February 2013

Letters to the Editor

Mary Isham’s family and friends are seeking donations to help pay for her cancer treatment in Germany.     Photo courtesy Micky Duxbury



Missing the Noe Valley Ministry


I took a walk the other day by the much beloved structure that was once home to the Noe Valley Ministry on Sanchez Street. It’s been some time since I’ve been up that way on foot, and I was struck by the deterioration of the building that has taken place since it was vacated for a planned renovation that has apparently stalled. For over a decade I held my Singing Rainbow Youth Ensemble rehearsals and concerts in that wonderful old building, renowned for its perfect acoustics. Its rafters are filled with echoes of music made by many celebrated artists presented by the Noe Valley Music Series and Noe Valley Chamber Music. I was not alone in my feeling that the Noe Valley Ministry was the location of the “heart” of the community, with all kinds of classes and events happening all the time. And of course, there was the Nursery School which not only nurtured generations of Noe Valley children but put smiles on the faces of all of us who came and went in the building.

I met some of my dearest friends at the Noe Valley Ministry. I was on the committee that raised the capital for a new roof. I’m not a member of the church, so I do not know what the grand plan is for the building but I fear an age-old principle may have been ignored when it was conjured up: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” 

I hope life soon returns to that venerable space or at least a coat of paint is put on to protect it from the elements and vandals.

Candace “Candy” Forest
Diamond Street



Attack on 23rd Street

Editor’s Note:The survivor of a serious assault on 23rd Street between San Jose Avenue and Guerrero Street at 2:40 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 6, sent the following e-mail alert within days of the attack. At press time, police were still looking for the suspect, described as an Asian or Latino man, 25 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 160 pounds, with a buzz haircut and facial stubble. If you have information, call the anonymous tip line415-575-4444, or text a tip to TIP411 and put “SFPD” at the beginning of the message.


If you’re getting this email, it’s because you are a female friend in my circles, live in my neighborhood, or have a large circle of women friends. I wanted to spread the word of what happened to me, so hopefully you and your circles can be more aware, street-smart, and vigilant about your personal safety.

On Saturday evening, I was walking home from a friend’s potluck through the Mission when I was attacked—an attempted rape. I was actually being quite conscious of those around me due to the fact that I’m heading to Nairobi in several weeks and personal safety has been on my mind. As I turned up 23rd Street, I noticed a man walking to me that “zero-ed” in on my presence, locking eyes on me. There was no side street to turn down, and I didn’t want to turn around, exposing my back to him, so I kept walking. As we neared each other, I tried to walk around a tree quite close to the curb. Before I could do so, he lunged at me.

He knew what he was doing and how to attack someone. He went first for my eye socket with his thumb and put his other hand in my mouth to stifle my screams and slammed me down to the ground. He was using the hand in my mouth and on my jaw to try and slam my head on the concrete, presumably to knock me out. Once I was down on the ground he straddled me, pinning down my arms. After about 15 seconds of struggling just to avoid him knocking me out, I was able to use all my strength to surge up on my right side to unpin that arm. Since I’m a climber, I’m strong, and I don’t think he was expecting this and was unprepared for that maneuver. Luckily, through this move and some biting, I was also able to get his hand out of my mouth, and started screaming—first just yelling and then screaming for help. I struggled with him while screaming and trying to avoid him knocking me out for another 30 seconds until a couple in a house several houses down the street threw open their window and turned on lights. This scared him away.

The cops came, and while we drove around looking for him for a while, we were unable to find him. This means that someone who clearly knows how to attack swiftly and effectively is still out there in our neighborhoods. This happened at 23rd between Guerrero and San Jose Avenue—the fringe of the Mission and Noe.

I’m incredibly lucky that I had the strength to keep him from delivering a knockout blow and to fight for so long until someone came to help. I’m incredibly lucky that those in the houses around me didn’t fall prey to crowd-think and assume someone else was going to help. I’m walking away from this with a bruised eye, scratches on my face, road rash on my shoulder, and sore/bruised back, shoulders, jaw and ribs. It could have been significantly worse.

I wanted to spread this around not to try and get attention or your sympathy, but to hopefully make you aware of the fact that attacks and “bad things” can also happen to people in your circle. We live in a big city, and the best thing you can do is be incredibly conscious of your surroundings at all times. Please—walk in groups, or with a male friend, take taxis, and dial up those street smarts....

Feel free to send this around to other females that could benefit from a dose of reality.





Give Forward to Mary Isham


Mary Isham has been a resident of San Francisco for over 45 years and is well known by many in the Noe Valley community for her decades-long commitment to  progressive causes. Many in the boomer generation will remember seeing her in the bright yellow vest that she wore as a “People’s Medic” during the rough-and-tumble demonstrations against the wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s.

Isham moved to the city in the early 1970s during the tail end of the anti–Vietnam War movement and was influenced by that turbulent time. She began her nursing career at Huckleberry House in the Tenderloin and went on to work for eight years as a nurse in the San Francisco City and County jails and Juvenile Hall. She continued her commitment to health education at S.F. General Hospital in the Patient Education Resource Center and served as director of the Health Center at Mission High School, where she became well known for her expertise in adolescent health care.

In 1998, shortly before her 50th birthday, Isham was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine pancreatic tumor—the same kind of tumor that Steve Jobs had. When Isham was rolled out of the operating room after a 10-hour surgery, she had no pancreas, no spleen, no gall bladder, and one-third less stomach and small intestine and began to face life as an insulin-dependent diabetic.

Dealing with significantly rearranged plumbing has presented incredible challenges, but raising the money needed to pay for her last and best treatment option is the biggest hurdle facing her now. Like most Americans, Isham does not have unlimited funds to spend on medical treatment.

Isham’s story is unique not only in that she is still alive, but also in that she has turned to an innovative online crowd-sourcing to help raise much-needed medical expenses for her current treatment. Now that the cancer has metastasized to her liver, she has found a cutting-edge targeted radiation treatment that is only offered in Europe. But the medical and travel costs for each trip are over $20,000 and she needs to make a total of three trips.

After researching several sites, Isham chose Give Forward, a site founded in 2008 to enable patients to fundraise from their friends, families, and larger community. Give Forward has helped raise over $30 million for more than 10,000 families and individuals.

Isham’s campaign has been running for three months and she has already raised 50 percent of her goal of $60,000. Most who donate know Isham—from childhood friends to nursing school alumni to guys that played basketball with her in high school, where she kept score for the team.  But others who don’t know her have been so moved by her story that they’ve sent money along with well wishes like “I have lived in S.F. all my life, and I love that I get to be part of such a unique and caring community. I hope this fundraiser and your treatment is a huge success.” 

Isham leaves for her third trip to Germany in March and hopes that the site will be able to cover the expenses. From the response from her San Francisco community, it looks like she might just make it.

Micky Duxbury

P.S. If you want to learn more about Mary’s story and see her art which has been an important part of her cancer journey, check out the link at last day for donations at Give Forward is Feb. 28.



THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, P.O. Box 460249, S.F., CA 94146. Or e­mail Please in­clude your name and contact information. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Be aware that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.

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