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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Valued voices pour in

by Mike Masterson | September 3, 2022 at 3:21 a.m.

I continue to be overwhelmed by messages and letters and cards of support in my increasingly difficult, weeks-long battle against squamous cell cancer in my neck.

I'm truly humbled by each one. They reinforce my inner resolve and faith when I can use them most. It means a person has chosen to take valuable time and effort from their lives and challenges to write to me, a person they only know through the thoughts I express.

And I very much believe God's hand and will is always at work in his creation in ways we may see but don't comprehend.

It's impossible to share all the messages. But here are just some examples representative of the sentiments and wishes from my fellow Arkansans. They prove yet again just how many thoughtful and wonderful people we have in Arkansas.

"I read your column today, Mike. I know it's tough what you're going through, but hang in there. You're an inspiration to a lot of people. And keep skinning it to the bone. People need to know the truth."--Mack Thompson

"Congratulations on your progress. No doubt, a number of your supporters realize the accomplishment on a higher level than do I. Kudos on amplifying such excellent local care. Never doubt the positive effects of your messages. You are using the voice you have earned for betterment."--Calvin

"Hang in there; it will get harder before it gets better. It's a process; follow the plan. I went through this exact 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 look forward to reading you always. Go forth, be strong, and regain your health!"--Loretta Moon, Eureka Springs

"Just a note that your readers are praying/hoping for good progress in your recovery. I, also, had a squamous cell carcinoma, but, fortunately, it was removed early and I had no further issues. 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 are managing everything. I hope the effects are beginning to moderate, and you're doing better. No more on the couch for a while, I imagine. Be careful. There are a lot of us rooting for you. Best wishes and loads of prayers."--Sharon Kornas, Morrilton

"Hello, Mike. Read your column as usual and grateful that you have researched and then affirmed the excellent medical care available in Arkansas! I have been praying for you and for your medical care team. It is good that you have completed much of the treatment and, as you point out, the integrity and skill of the persons in charge of the treatment is the key to success. God's presence is always with us and he will never forsake us."--Mary

"Hey, Mike. Nice column this morning--I didn't know about your latest battle, and I felt like you did a wonderful job of sharing the story in the context of 'writing about what you know' as a service to readers. As a writer and columnist, you chronicling your journey these next months will be very inspiring for a great many readers and people (including me). You have my prayers and my best wishes for strength and courage and positive attitudes during times that will no doubt be trying, painful and despairing. I count myself among your fans and admirers, and I'm sure I speak for all when I say we're with you and behind you, and we'll be cheering you on! God bless and godspeed."--Dana Kelley

"Following your journey with prayer, respect and uplifting thoughts. May God bless you, Jeanetta and Benji. You are brave and God has blessed you with a wonderful soulmate. Praying for your health."--Martha

"I was so sorry to read in your column today about your treatments for throat cancer. While you are going these miserable treatments, sharing your feeling may be what someone else, experiencing 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 am sure there are many cancers with these same horrible symptoms, but I have never known of any. Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me so aware of how many people are suffering every single day as I just go on with my life. This changes my perspective. The chiming 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. He never ceases to amaze."--Pam Christian

"I want to thank you for your recent columns concerning your cancer treatment of your squamous cell cancer in your neck. Hang in there; you will get better! 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 was the caregiver each time. Thank God for her, a true saint! Be patient, it will soon be over and you can begin the healing process."--Sam Arant

"My nephew Wilson Moore sent me your beautiful and moving article 'Halfway home' yesterday. I had no idea you were struggling with this horrible disease. I was so inspired by your strength and attitude. I know that if anybody can beat this, you can. 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 will quit complaining about my knee procedure. It is inspiring to read about your journey. Keep at it. You are in my prayers."--Noel Morris

"I just finished reading your article on 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 in the north central part of our state. To say this was a devastating and surreal experience would be understating the obvious. One of the things that helped me tremendously through the chemo and radiation process (besides my angel of a wife) was that a co-worker's father was approaching the end of the process I was beginning. The knowledge his treatments were being successful gave me insight to what was to come and most important, hope. It's now 2022, and I am still here (now retired) with minimal after-effects and a greater appreciation for modern medicine and the folks in it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, Mike, and it's not a train. I am willing to share my experience with you if needed, and if not, just know there is someone out there that went through what you are now going through and is now living his 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, seems like, some certainly worse than others. I appreciate you sharing your treatments and your attitude and 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 your wife bring comfort and peace."--A loyal reader

"Mike: Thank you so much for being willing to frankly share your experiences during your cancer treatment. It has been 34 years since a golf-ball-sized squamous cell carcinoma was discovered in the base of my tongue. After an 8½-hour surgery at UAMS that destroyed much of my throat, I endured 38 radiation treatments. The worst was the mask! Fortunately I am not claustrophobic! But I have enjoyed 33 years of nearly normal life, including enjoying a professional career (Dean of Engineering at UAF) and a myriad of family events. It is definitely worth the temporary misery you are suffering! The last year has been difficult for me as the late-stage effects of radiation are taking their toll in muscle hardening and inability to swallow. But I'm 81 and will joyfully deal with these issues in return for the 33 amazing years I would have missed had I chosen not to endure the radiation."--Neil Schmitt, Fayetteville

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at

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