The comments were overheard constantly.
Everyone involved with the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Golf Tournament brunch Saturday at the Old Hawthorne Golf Course had good things to say about Diana Ash, 41, of Columbia.
“She’s a fighter,” said former Kansas City Chiefs player Walter White.
“She’s pretty inspirational to all of us,” said Rob Campbell, a member of the planning committee for the event.
Ash, an outgoing blonde clad in a pink hat and shirt, said cancer has taught her how to stay positive.
“I’m a fighter,” she said. “I think that this has made me a stronger woman. My biggest motivation is seeing my children grow.”
Three and a half years ago Ash found a knot in one of her breasts during a self exam. A biopsy later confirmed that the lump was a tumor and that Ash had breast cancer.
“Complete shock,” Ash said. “The feeling you get is that they can’t be talking about me.”
Ash admits she had rough periods during the rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, but that she had to keep going.
“Even during chemo I worked. I put on a wig and still went to work. I couldn’t bow out,” Ash said. “I had to be there.”
Today, Ash is a determined advocate of breast cancer awareness. The cancer is not gone, but has spread into her bones and liver. However, Ash still keeps a smile on her face.
“I have a belief that, yes, this is God’s plan for me, and that his plan also has to have a purpose,” Ash said. “And I think that my purpose is to tell my story to prevent other men and women from going through this.”
Hosted by the Mid-Missouri Susan G. Komen For The Cure affiliate, the golf tournament was one of many events this weekend that took place at various locations around Columbia. The tournament was meant to bring in celebrities from around Missouri to compete alongside members of the community.
Walter White recalls that the first time he met Ash he couldn’t believe that she had cancer or that she still does.
“I would have never known,” said White about their first meeting. “She was smiling. She seems so happy and jolly.”
White heard about the golf tournament last fall and worked to get NFL players from both Kansas City and Saint Louis to take part in the tournament.
“We’re glad to come down to Columbia and help out with a good cause,” White said.
Other celebrities that attended the tournament and other events this weekend were former Chiefs players Tony Reed, Foots Walker and Ted McKnight along with several MU coaches including former MU men’s basketball coach Norm Stewart.
“Breast cancer is something that creates fear for many women and anything that can be done to alleviate that fear is important,” said Stewart, who was diagnosed and underwent treatment for colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States this year there will be over 180,510 new breast cancer cases and that there will be 40,910 deaths from it for both men and women.
“Nobody is exempt from getting cancer,” Ash said. “It doesn’t pick and choose. Cancer wasn’t in my family either.”
Dr. Paul Dale, a surgical oncologist at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia, said that the death rates from breast cancer have been declining because of better drugs, less invasive surgery and shorter techniques for radiation therapy.
Saturday night the group sponsored a trivia hunt that took place at nine different restaurants and ended with a raffle prize drawing at Shiloh.
“Who would pass up an opportunity to do a sport that you love and do it for a good cause,” said Ash about participating in the golf tournament, “you spend a little bit of money and help out a local fund raiser.”
Although the golf tournament was postponed Saturday, it was rescheduled to take place Aug. 6. Proceeds will go towards the Mid-Missouri affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure breast cancer research. For details, contact Rob Campbell at 573 999-0732 or visit komenmidmissouri.org.