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Katie Massey photo

Sauk Prairie girls tennis coach Katie Massey, second from left, has made strong steps and is nearing completion of her treatments after being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago. She's thankful for the support from her team and other schools, the community, friends and family — including her husband, Levi, and daughters Morgan (2) and Kendall (4). 

Her strength is coming back. So has the dark, curly hair on her head.

A year after being diagnosed at age 29 with Stage 3 breast cancer, Sauk Prairie girls tennis coach Katie Massey’s difficult journey appears on the upswing.

She is relishing her coaching duties — 55 girls turned out this season — and counting down the days until her final two treatments are completed.

“I’m happy to be here,” said Massey, who turned 30 in February. “I’m happy to be coaching tennis again. Going into the season last year, we were just starting the fight. Being here and also coaching is so exciting.

“I am looking forward to our life not consisting of hospital visits.”

Once those treatments are finished?

“We will celebrate,” she said.

The update on her condition is good news worth shouting from the rooftops.

“There is no sign of the disease right now,” Massey said. “The support from everyone has been phenomenal. I hope for continued prayers and encouragement from everyone.”

Then, Massey will look forward to “getting back to a normal life.”

Life has been anything but normal since the Massey family came home from a summer vacation in 2016.

On Monday, Massey — wearing a pink cancer awareness T-shirt that said “strength love prayers” on its front and standing with husband Levi, 4-year-old daughter Kendall and 2-year-old daughter Morgan by her side — shared her story with the 99 girls golfers at the eighth annual Crusade Fore a Cure tournament at Maple Bluff Country Club.

“We had finished up the best summer of our lives,” Massey told the golfers. “Then our lives got turned upside down when we came back from vacation.”

She will never forget the doctor’s words telling her she had breast cancer.

After the initial shock subsided, Katie and Levi — who teaches and coaches boys basketball at Sauk Prairie — let their athletic instincts kick into gear.

“It was our competitiveness, our hard work and everything we had learned in sports that took over,” she said.

Once they changed their state of mind, their thought process became, “ ‘We’ve got this. We’ll get the best doctors. We’re going to get through this,’ ” she said.

They got to work and received widespread support.

“We just have had to put our head down and go,” Levi Massey said. “It’s been fun to see everyone in our community stand up and help.”

Katie Massey said she’s thankful that, despite her illness and the subsequent treatments, she was able to spend time coaching a year ago.

She leaned on her team to give her strength and inspiration.

“A team is a powerful thing,” Massey said.

She is grateful for support from friends and family, her team, the Sauk Prairie community, coaches and schools in the Badger Conference and from people she hadn’t known who came forward to offer best wishes.

Hesitant at first to discuss her condition, she said she was glad she told her story publicly last year as a way to possibly help and inspire others and promote breast cancer awareness.

She encouraged the golfers to think about people in need in their community.

“When you get on that bus, talk about who we can help in our community,” she said.

That act of kindness might result in making a meal, a blanket or a card of encouragement. It might be shoveling a driveway in winter.

“I can’t wait to give back,” she said, thinking about all the meals that were brought to her family.

The Crusade Fore a Cure that benefits Susan G. Komen Wisconsin originated from conversations some eight years ago between two friends and Maple Bluff Country Club members — Madison Edgewood girls golf coach Peggy Gierhart and Crusaders assistant Betsy Zadra, who also now coaches the Waunakee boys golf team.

Gierhart and Zadra had friends and family members stricken with cancer and wanted to do something to fight the disease and create awareness.

Monday marked the eighth year of the annual event — featuring many of the golfers and coaches (male and female) wearing pink clothing. It raised $16,000 to $18,000, pushing the eight-year total to $71,000 to $73,000.

“This is my favorite day,” Gierhart said.

Katie Massey was glad to be a part of it.

“This is such an amazing thing,” Massey said. “This is not just a golf match. It’s for such a good cause.

“It’s a powerful thing. … The more events we have, the more money we are raising and the closer we are to a cure.”

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.