I continue to be overwhelmed with messages, letters and cards of support in my weeks-long increasingly difficult battle with squamous cell cancer in the neck.
I am truly humbled by everyone. They strengthen my inner resolve and my faith when I can use them the most. It means that a person has chosen to dedicate valuable time and effort to their life and its challenges to write to me, a person they know only by the thoughts I express.
And I firmly believe that God’s hand and will are still at work in his creation in ways that we can see but do not understand.
It is not possible to share all messages. But here are just a few representative examples of the feelings and wishes of my fellow Arkansans. They prove once again how many caring and wonderful people we have in Arkansas.
“I read your column today, Mike. I know what you’re going through is tough, but hang in there. You’re an inspiration to a lot of people. ‘os. People need to know the truth..”–Mack Thompson
“Congratulations on your progress. There is no doubt that a number of your supporters achieve achievement at a higher level than I do. Congratulations on amplifying such excellent local care. Never doubt the positive effects of your messages. You use the voice you earned for the upgrade.” –Calvin
“Hold on, it’s going to get harder before it gets better. It’s a process, follow the plan. I had exactly this treatment at UAMS in 2014. Prayers, my friend.”– Keith Browning.
“The world would be a much lesser place without you. I don’t always agree with you (I’m a bleeding-heart liberal who grew up in the 60s), but I always look forward to reading you. Go- y, be strong, and get your health back!”–Loretta Moon, Eureka Springs
“Just a note that your readers pray/hope for good progress in your recovery. I too had squamous cell carcinoma but luckily it was removed early and I have had no further problems. May you find a strength you never expected in the midst of your weakness.”–Richard L. Proctor, Circuit Judge, Ret.
“Hardly a day goes by that I don’t wonder about you and how you’re coping with everything. I hope the effects are starting to wear off, and you’re feeling better. No more on the couch for a while. a while, I imagine. Be careful. Many of us are supporting you. Best wishes and many prayers.”–Sharon Kornas, Morrilton
“Hello, Mike. Read your column as usual and grateful that you have sought out and then affirmed the excellent medical care available in Arkansas! I have been praying for you and your medical care team. you have completed a large part of the treatment and, as you point out, the integrity and competence of the people in charge of the treatment are the key to success. God’s presence is always with us and he will never abandon us.” –Married
“Hey, Mike. Nice column this morning – I wasn’t aware of your last battle, and I felt like you did a wonderful job of sharing the story in the context of ‘writing about this that you know” as a service to readers As a writer and columnist, telling you about your journey over the next few months will be very inspiring to many readers and people (including me). You have my prayers and my best wishes of strength and courage and positive attitudes during times that are sure to be trying, painful and desperate. I count myself among your fans and admirers, and I am sure I speak for everyone when I say that we are with you and behind you, and we will encourage you! God bless you and fair winds.”–Dana Kelley
“Follow your journey with prayer, respect and uplifting thoughts. God bless you, Jeanetta and Benji. You are brave and God has blessed you with a wonderful soulmate. I pray for your health.”–Martha
“I was so sorry to read in your column today about your treatments for throat cancer. While you are going through these miserable treatments, sharing your feelings may be what someone else, going through similar treatments, can find hope and encouragement. I want you to know that I will be praying for you. I look forward to reading your column.”–Shirley Stacy
“My prayers continue for you and now they begin for Mr. Phillips. I’m sure there are many cancers out there with these same horrific symptoms, but I’ve never experienced one. Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me makes me so aware of how many people suffer every day as I go on with my life. It changes my perspective. The chime of “Amazing Grace” [at the moment a prayer for recovery was being offered] was God’s reminder that he is with you in this fight. It never ceases to amaze.” – Pam Christian
“I want to thank you for your recent articles regarding your cancer treatment for your squamous cell cancer in the neck. Hold on, you’ll be fine! I recently completed the same treatment at CARTI in Little Rock. I also completed your same treatment plan 10 years ago in Austin, Texas with success. My wife is, and has been the caregiver every time. Thank God for her, a true saint! Be patient, it will be over soon and you can begin the healing process.”- -Sam Arant
“My nephew Wilson Moore sent me your beautiful and moving ‘Halfway home’ article yesterday. I had no idea you were battling this horrible disease. I have been so inspired by your strength and attitude. I pray for your full and complete recovery. This world needs talented people like you.”–Ronny
“So after reading about your treatments today, I think I’m going to stop complaining about my knee surgery. It’s inspiring to read about your journey. Keep it up. You are in my prayers.”–Noel Morris
“I just finished reading your article about your recent chemo experience. I had the exact same cancer in the exact same place in 2006 when I first arrived in Arkansas to start a new job at a very rural college. from the north central part of our state. To say it was a devastating and surreal experience would be to underestimate the obvious. One of the things that helped me immensely through the process of chemo and radiation (besides of my angel wife) was that a colleague’s father was nearing the end of the process I was beginning. The knowledge that his treatments were successful gave me insight into what was to come and most importantly, the We are now in 2022, and I am still here (now retired) with minimal scars and a greater appreciation for modern medicine and the people in it. There is light at the end of the day. tunnel, Mike, and it’s not a tr ain. I’m willing to share my experience with you if needed, and if not, just know there’s someone out there who’s been through what you’re not going through and is now living their best life!”– Dr. Mike DeLong
“I read your articles regularly; you always bring a sense of normalcy to our lives. We all suffer from some affliction it seems, some certainly worse than others. I appreciate you sharing your treatments, your attitude and your determination to overcome. God knows what we are dealing with; he created us and sustains us. My prayers are for healing and a normal life for years to come. May God wrap his arms around you and may your wife brings you comfort and peace.”–A faithful reader
“Mike: Thank you so much for being willing to candidly share your experiences during your cancer treatment. It’s been 34 years since squamous cell carcinoma the size of a golf ball was discovered at the base of my tongue. After an 8 1/2 hour operation at UAMS that destroyed a large part of my throat, I endured 38 radiation treatments. The worst was the mask! Luckily I’m not claustrophobic! But I have enjoyed 33 years of a nearly normal life, including a professional career (Dean of Engineering at UAF) and a myriad of family events. It really is worth the temporary pain that you suffer! The past year has been difficult for me as the late effects of radiation take their toll on muscle hardening and inability to swallow. But I am 81 years old and I will happily deal with these issues in exchange for the incredible 33 years I would have missed had I chosen not to endure radiation.” – Neil Schmitt, Fayetteville
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, has served as editor of three Arkansas daily newspapers, and led the Ohio State University’s Masters in Journalism program. Email him at email@example.com.