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Woman with terminal cancer continues volunteer work in her final days

Mary Jo Hartman has dedicated her life to volunteering and working to better her Michigan community. And she wasn't going to stop just because the end of her life was near.

"My mom's motto is, 'You can either sit around waiting to die or you can keep living life,'" Sarah Lafevre, Hartman's daughter, told TODAY.com. "She's a real inspiration."

Hartman, 56, was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in May 2012.

Courtesy of Sarah Lafevre
Mary Jo Hartman with her daughters, Sarah and Caitlyn Lafevre, in the hospital.

On Nov. 19, she received some terrible news: The mother of two, who lives in South Lyon, outside Detroit, had just one month to live.

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Service has always been an important part of her life. She volunteers at a local family crisis center and youth homeless shelter near her home, while also working as a youth minister at both St. Genevieve Church and St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

She also runs a youth group for both churches, and performs service projects around the community with high school students.

Courtesy of Sarah Lafevre
Hartman goofing off with daughter Sarah. "My mom's motto is, 'You can either sit around waiting to die or you can keep living life,'" Sarah tells TODAY.com.

The grim prognosis has slowed but not stopped her.

"If anything, the prognosis has made her want to do more because she has such a short amount of time left," Sarah Lafevre said.

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"She plans to continue working and volunteering for as long as this world gives her," she said.

In her spare time, Hartman has also been collecting food to donate to food banks in Detroit, using social media to get the word out. People constantly come by to drop food on her front porch.

As if all of that wasn't enough, she just received a master's degree in social work from Wayne State University.

Meanwhile, the disease has continued to take its toll.

Courtesy of Sarah Lafevre
Hartman with her husband Fred Lafevre.

She can't eat solid food, so she's hooked up to an IV 12 hours a day to remain nourished.

Still, she’s made time to go to dinner with friends as often as she can.

Hartman is determined to make it to Christmas, where she's looking forward to spending time with other er daughter, Caitlyn Lafevre, 26, who is flying up from Atlanta, and the rest of her family.

It may be their last time together.

After receiving the bad news, her family wanted to move up a Christmas party they had planned to make sure she could be there.

Hartman told them, "Absolutely not."

"It's been hard, but we're a tough family and we use humor to get through it," Lafevre said. "There's nothing a good laugh can't heal in our family."

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