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A new venture and an unexpected

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http://www.maysville-online.com/article ... 8mason.txt

By LAURA RAINS Staff writer

Friday, October 28, 2005 8:49 PM EDT Print this story | Email this story

For Cheryl Mason, 2005 started out with a new venture.

A hairdresser for 27 years, in January she started the renovations on the house on Forest Avenue that would become her new salon, Cheryl's Ultimate Hair Design.

It was a total renovation and she did a lot of the work herself.

Mason was doing hair by day, at her longtime location on East Second Street, and working evenings at the new location on the renovations.

"Keeping up with that schedule was nothing new for me," she said. "I'm the kind of person that never sits down."

All that changed in August.

Cheryl Mason has been a hairdresser for 27 years and recently moved her business to Forest Avenue. In August, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. Laura Rains/Staff

Mason thought she had come down with the flu. Diagnosing herself, she thought if it wasn't the flu, maybe she was having some type of allergy problem because she had a tickle in her throat and constant cough.

She was also having severe headaches.

But when she started having trouble catching her breath, and finding she needing to sit down for a few minutes after the slightest activity, she called the doctor.

"I hadn't been to a doctor for 20 years," she said. "But I had no reason to."

On Aug. 30 she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Even though she had smoked for 30 years and had quit smoking seven years ago, she was still shocked at the diagnosis.

After all the months working to get her new shop ready to open, Mason was only able to enjoy her new digs for a short time.

Mason has always been one to decorate on a budget.

"I guess you could say another man's trash is my treasure."

Walls were knocked out, and recycled windows were used inside and out.

With a client base that reaches three figures, Mason wanted her business to be comfortable for her customers and because she spent so much time there, she wanted to create a home-away-from-home feeling for herself.

The entrance to the shop is a sunroom she has enclosed and decorated in her favorite style -- primitive. She has decorated it with things she has purchased and things she has made.

Mason even made a special room for the children of clients to wait.

Adjacent to the main salon area, recycled windows look into a break room that could be your best friend's kitchen.

In one corner of the business, she plans to have a small gift shop filled with items she loves.

Earlier this summer when everything was finished and she was open for business, she decided maybe she needed some help.

Looking back, she realizes probably that was the time she was beginning to not feel like herself.

Mason contacted longtime friend and fellow hairdresser Linda Sweeting.

The two came to an agreement and Sweeting came to work at Cheryl's Ultimate Hair Design.

She believes there may have been a third party involved in the negotiations.

"I believe God put this all together," she said.

Mason knows she has to put all her energy, limited as it is right now, on getting better.

To have to worry about her many clients and their needs would have been devastating to her. But with Sweeting on board, she can concentrate on her health.

Because the tumor in her lung was inoperable and has invaded the lymph nodes, she has been undergoing a vigorous treatment schedule.

She hasn't been able to work since Sept. 8. A biopsy was performed on Sept. 9 and treatments began right away.

"I had 26 double radiation treatments, five days a week with one in the morning and one in the afternoon," she said. "I also have two more rounds of chemotherapy to go through."

Mason says she now understands what people who have undergone chemotherapy mean when they talk about being tired.

"It's hard to describe just how tired you are," she said. "I'm worn out all the time."

She has also been plagued by a constant burning in her chest she says, especially when she tries to eat.

Mason does manage to laugh when she talks about how her body now reacts to her longtime sweet tooth.

"I used to have a terrible sweet tooth, but no more," she laughed. "A glass of tea with two teaspoons of sugar now tastes like it has two cups of sugar in it."

Mason doesn't make it to the salon to visit very often, but when she does it's not unusual for the two friends to have a good cry together.

"Cheryl is such a hard worker and she has been all her life," said Sweeting. "It's hard to see her with no energy at all."

As a hairdresser, Mason says the hardest part was losing the hair that reached all the way down her back.

"It was devastating to lose my hair," said Mason. "I put a hat on first thing every morning and try not to look in the mirror."

Mason is so appreciative of the clients who have contacted her. She also says without her husband, Bernard, the rest of her family and her church family at Cottageville Mission in Lewis County, she doesn't know what she would have done.

"All the doctors and nurses here at the Cancer Care Center have been so wonderful to me, too."

She knows she has a long road ahead of her. All the tests to see if the cancer is in the brain have been negative. As a precaution, however, she will begin 20 rounds of chemotherapy in December.

Today Mason turns 55 and she's grateful for every day she has.

"I do believe in miracles and I know people are praying for me," she said. "My plans are to get better and to come back to work. Even though I'm not able to work right now, I honestly believe God can change it all."

Contact Laura Rains at Laura.Rains@lee.net or by phone at 606-564-9091, ext. 275.

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