a group of people posing for a picture
The gang at Overseas Pub and Grill is ready to make Saturday, June 29 its biggest charitable event yet in support of cancer patient Mallory Martin. Pictured are Martin, center, with her support crew. Clockwise from left: Ashley Kelshaw, Catherine Dunn, Andy Sharf, Brian ‘Cheddar’ Geitz, Kyrstyn Ransom. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

I tried four separate times to sit down and write this piece as a “news” article. But I just can’t.

On May 7, I was having a pretty stellar day as I enjoyed an annual shower of birthday calls, texts and Facebook messages. But the next day, one text in particular truly got me.

“Dude. So sorry I missed your birthday yesterday! Happy belated birthday!”

Sounds like an ordinary text – except for the reason this friend had “missed” my birthday: She was undergoing surgery to remove part of her lung after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. And the next day, she just wanted me to know SHE was thinking of ME. My brain could barely comprehend it.

But that’s who Mallory Martin is.

On March 23, Mallory suffered a seizure during her work day at Dolphin Research Center. Just 30 years old, doctors discovered a mass the size of a lime in her brain. Three days later, during an 18-day hospital stay, it was surgically removed – only for her to be told that it wasn’t a benign cyst, but the result of metastasized cancer that originated somewhere else in her body.

Her medical journey since then could fill our entire newspaper, but over the span of the next two months, she’d undergo three more procedures: gamma knife radiation to treat the tumor margins in her brain, a second surgery to remove affected areas of her lung targeted by Stage 4 adenocarcinoma – and a third emergency operation as complications triggered a massive internal bleed.

“It’s crazy. For me, I’m still stuck in March, although it’s almost the end of June, because that’s when my life stopped,” she told me. “I celebrated my 30th birthday at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and three weeks later I had Stage 4 cancer. … I just remembered holding the doctor’s hand before I went in for that last surgery and telling him that I didn’t want to die.”

a woman in a pink hat is petting a dolphin
Mallory Martin takes a precious moment with flippered coworker Gambit. CONTRIBUTED

After spending more than five years witnessing her strength and selflessness in countless talks on the docks of Dolphin Research Center together, it hardly surprises me that her doctors call her a “Straight-As” cancer patient. Or that she described brain surgery to me as “no big deal.” After all, she reminded me, she’s had general anesthesia 15 times at this point for medical procedures throughout her life – and the lung surgery was way worse than brain radiation, anyway.

Because again: Strength, independence and completely avoiding the spotlight, even when it’s more than deserved, are central to who Mallory is. Just ask the people closest to her.

“Mallory is the kind of friend that you can only live without if you’ve never had her in your life before,” her friend and coworker Kyrstyn Ransom told me. “She is so unapologetically herself and she makes sure those around her know their worth. If you’ve known Mallory’s love, your life is better because of it. ”

“She loves and lives wholeheartedly,” added Catherine Dunn, also a fellow DRC trainer. “I would do absolutely anything for her.”  

“The support and laughter she brings to my life are some that I will cherish forever,” said fellow trainer and bartender Ashley Kelshaw. “It is a privilege to love and be loved by her.” 

Today, Mallory is back home recovering with an oral targeted therapy drug. But as with any cancer, her battle – and need for the community to rally around her – are far from over.

For those unfamiliar, she’s also the better half – if that’s even possible – of beloved Overseas Pub and Grill bartender Brian “Cheddar” Geitz. It’s one of many reasons why, when Overseas bar manager and charitable fundraising mastermind Andy Sharf sounded his trademark “IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN!” horn a few months ago, he was dead set on making Mallory’s benefit event on Saturday, June 29 his biggest ever.

a man and a woman posing for a picture
Dolphin Research Center trainer Mallory Martin, pictured here with boyfriend and Overseas Pub and Grill bartender Brian ‘Cheddar’ Geitz, is battling metastatic lung cancer at the age of 30.

No, really. He bought a brand new $14,000 jet ski with stacks of cash, just to raffle it off and raise more money.

The Overseas gang will put on a full-court press all day and night to raise funds supporting Mallory’s ongoing medical care and its many related expenses, from a 100-plus item silent auction valued at more than $60,000 running until 10 p.m. and big-ticket raffle items valued at more than $35,000. 

All tips to bartenders will go to the cause, as will proceeds from a barbecue pulled pork dinner offered for sale, and there are plenty of “eff cancer” coozies and #CertifiedMalPal wristbands to go around. Native Taxi is set to provide free cab rides to and from the bar, and the evening hours will see Key West legends Mike Stack and D-Lew take the stage for a musical set at 8:45 p.m.

“My goal is to make Andy cry,” Mallory joked when asked about the weekend. “But if people want to help me, then maybe somehow my life has changed those people’s lives. So that means a lot.”

“Mallory wears her heart on her sleeve, she’s strong, she speaks her mind, she works hard and loves to help others,” Cheddar told the Weekly. “She’s always quick to lend a helping hand, but sometimes accepting help and having to depend on others has been difficult for her. She loves her family and friends, but most importantly, she loves her animals. Not sure which one I fall under – but I love her.”

To donate to Mallory’s GoFundMe supporting ongoing medical care, visit

Alex Rickert
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.