Fighting, fishing for a cure
Stacy Masters, of Arbyrd, Mo., has been a longtime supporter of the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life, but in March of this year her fight with cancer became personal when she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ and later triple negative breast cancer.
Masters, who has two small boys, Dawson, 8, and Dalton, 6, said receiving the news was scary.
"I found a lump in my breast one night. I believe it was God sending me a message," Masters said. "I was in the shower and felt a pain shoot through me like I had been shot. I leaned over and grabbed myself and there the lump was. I never had anymore pain after that. I was diagnosed March 29. At first I cried and was in fear for what was about to take place."
From the time she was diagnosed, Masters was at a doctor's office every day getting different opinions, referrals and mapping out a treatment plan. She said it is important people know they can get a second opinion and it is also important to know they aren't alone. At first Masters didn't share her diagnoses.
"It was right in the middle of planting season, the kids were finishing up the last semester of school, and it was overwhelming," Masters said. "And in the beginning we kept everything private. I guess I thought if we didn't talk about it, it really wasn't happening."
In the weeks and months that followed, Masters had two lumpectomies, radiation and hormone therapy. She is still undergoing treatment but she keeps a positive attitude. Most wouldn't know if she is in pain or upset because she keeps a smile on her face and tries to help someone every day.
"My family has been amazing," Masters said. "Doug (her husband) has been my punching bag. I may have had a smile on my face when seen out, but at home when our little boys weren't around to see and hear, I shed many tears and screamed, begging God to spare me for my family. Our little boys were in constant prayer and always trying to do what they could to help me. Some of my friends have had a hard time dealing with the fact I was diagnosed with cancer, and some of the friends I expected to always be by my side during a crisis left my side because it was hard for them to accept that I was going through this. Meanwhile, people I barely knew became faithful and important friends."
Masters believes it is important to keep a smile, a positive attitude and help someone every day. That belief is what has led her to raise awareness for breast cancer. Her first fundraisers started when her friends made "Team Stacy Rocks" tee shirts and sold them to help with medical expenses. Since she has private insurance, which doesn't cover all the medical expenses, she felt she couldn't take the money raised.
"I spoke with Carrie Rowland, the mammographer at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould, and she told me about a program called Project Hope," Masters said. "Project Hope provides for women of any age with no insurance or other means to pay, but are at risk of breast cancer. So, in July, I was able to donate $1,500 to Project Hope to help other women who need what could be a life-saving mammogram."
Yet Masters wanted to do more. She wanted to get the community involved to bring more awareness to Project Hope. She enlisted the help of her friend, Ivy Wooldridge, who owns Hoyt's Catfish Pay Pond in Cardwell, to organize a "Fishing for a Cure" event. The two went to local farmers to ask them to sponsor the event and the farmers agreed. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, the first "Fishing for a Cure" will take place. Both Masters and Wooldridge hope it can become an annual event.
"There will be fishing, face painting, food and drinks, a drawing for a 17(HMR) bolt action rifle, silent auction, door prizes, and chances to win cash if you catch the 16 pound catfish or an albino catfish. With this being our first event, we are learning a lot," Masters said.
Masters is asking people to donate canned soda, bottled water, silent auction items or door prizes. There also is an event tee shirt for sale. The proceeds from the silent auction and the drawing for the rifle will go to the American Cancer Society.
People are encouraged to take their lawn chairs and fishing poles to help a good cause. There will be bait and tackle available for purchase, as well as volunteers to help bait hooks, take fish off the line, help reel in fish and fix broken lines.
Masters is excited about the upcoming event and still maintains a positive outlook. She took time to offer some advice to young women and those newly-diagnosed with breast cancer.
"Do your self exams," Masters said. "Go have your routine checkups. Breast cancer spreads faster in young women, so early detection is important. For those newly-diagnosed, always remain hopeful and positive. Remember that God has a purpose for each and every one of us. Don't give up -- cry, scream, let your feelings out, but don't ever give up, because when you give up hope, you let cancer win."