Haley, a Liverpool mom of seven children, five of whom were adopted from Ethiopia, first found a lump in her breast in September of 2012, but after a mammogram, she was told it was a plugged duct. Haley had already tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene 10 years earlier. She was due for a follow-up appointment in December of 2012, but instead had to have open heart surgery to repair a prolapsed mitral valve, a common heart defect. She finally returned for her follow-up last year, only to learn that the “plugged duct” had grown; a biopsy revealed it was cancerous. Haley underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, but the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes. She was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer.
“I remember crying for days, trying to process it,” Haley said. “Losing my hair was a constant reminder. The cancer is always ‘in your face.’ It’s real, it’s scary and it sucks.”
The diagnosis was also hard on her kids, who range in age from 11 to 18.
“The kids took it hard,” she said. “It’s been difficult for them, not knowing if [I will] be okay, seeing me go through treatments and being sick for six or seven days afterward. I [can’t] go to some of their after school activities, sports and band concerts. I’ve missed out on a lot that [has been] going on in their lives.”
Fortunately, Haley, who is also going through a divorce, has plenty of friends who were willing to step up to the plate.
“[I’ve] ended up having to rely heavily on my friends to not only transport me to and from treatments, other appointments and multiple surgeries, but also to transport my kids to work and games,” she said. “They’ve made us meals and continually offer help.”
Among those friends are Messenger editor Tami Scott and Michelle Aurelio, who are organizing a benefit to help Haley and her family pay for her ever-rising medical costs, including co-pays and transportation.
“She’s one of my best friends. She’s been on a rough road for a while now, and has seven children to care for while she deals not only with breast cancer but with the financial and emotional hardships that come from divorce,” Scott said. “Both Michele and I want to make sure she can prioritize her well-being — if she needs to take time off work for a few days, then take it. We don’t want her to worry about the financial consequences while enduring the side effects that come from chemo.”
The benefit will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Café at 407, 407 Tulip St., Liverpool. There will be coffees, hot chocolate, tea and soda, as well as a variety of desserts provided by Café at 407. Entertainment will be provided by local musician Michael Crissan and acoustic duo Mojotune. There will be items for a silent auction donated by local businesses as well as raffles; donations are still being sought for both. Advance tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at Café at 407, the Market Diner across from Destiny USA, and the Energy Lounge in Baldwinsville. Scott and Aurelio can also provide tickets.
If you can’t make the benefit but you’d like to help, checks can be made payable to “Stacy L. Haley Benefit Fund” and mailed to Tami Scott, 5 Gulfline Road, Liverpool, NY 13090. Contact Scott at 652-9405 or by email at email@example.com or Aurelio at 935-3082 with questions.
A Facebook page has also been set up both for the benefit and as a way to support and encourage Haley: Facebook.com/SweetSupportforStacy.
Haley said she’s been overwhelmed by all of the support she’s received.
“I don’t even have words for how I feel. I’m just in awe,” she said. “I’ve always been very independent and not usually one to ask for help from others. This experience has been very life-changing. I’m blessed that I have so many people who care about the kids and me.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.