Marianna Pontoriero (left) announced she was battling cancer in March 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Marianna Pontoriero (left) announced she was battling cancer in March 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

A Brick Township councilwoman asked for prayers as she battles a “rare and aggressive” form of cancer – but she asked those prayers be directed toward her children and family rather than herself.

The tone of the request was typical of Councilwoman Marianna Pontoriero – a frequent advocate for abused children and the community’s senior citizens – to put others before herself.

Pontoriero, 43, at the end of a council meeting Tuesday night, announced she was battling head and neck cancer, which has already spread since her initial diagnosis. She will undergo surgery March 20 that will target tumors.

“Cancer has declared war on me, so I’m ready to declare war back on it,” said Pontoriero, who works as an attorney at the law office she founded in Brick with her sister. “Like most Americans who are plagued with this disease, I will be working while I’m being treated.”

Pontoriero said she would be cutting back her hours at work, but would remain doing all she could in her role as township councilwoman.

“I thank my colleagues, the other council people, who are picking up my slack,” she said.

“I don’t need anyone to feel pity for me,” she continued. “People who fight this disease come in all shapes, colors and come from different professions. I’m a very transparent person in general, and I don’t believe there is anything I can’t tackle.”

Still, prayer can’t hurt, she said.

“I have three wonderful kids, so if you want to say any prayers, I ask that you devote them to my family and my children,” Pontoriero said.

“You’re a strong woman and we know you’re going to do a great job fighting it, and we need you here,” said her council colleague, Paul Mummolo.

“You’ll be fine, Marianna,” said Councilman Jim Fozman. “We’ll help you and support you any way we can.”

Pontoriero said she will speak publicly about her fight.

“It’s a lot worse for my family than, I think, it is for me,” Pontoriero said. “If anything can come as a positive for me, I think I can make a lot of connections with our residents and find out what they’re going through, versus being an outsider.”

“I’ll see everyone after my surgery.”