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Buddy Check 10: Mother, daughter breast cancer survivors use shop to help comfort women battling cancer

Marty Masters and Nancy Guillen were diagnosed with breast cancer the same week 12 years ago. Their shop, "Just About You," helps other women through the journey.

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — A mother and daughter, who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the same week 12 years ago, help comfort breast cancer patients and survivors in their shop "Just About You."

Marty Masters and Nancy Guillen thought their relationship as mother and daughter was close. It got even closer when they received news that would turn their lives upside down, and also spark a chance to help others.

They said their store is a "caring place for women with cancer" in downtown Morristown. To walk through the doors of the shop is to already know pain.

"I am 100 percent sure this is why I quit my job and retired early to do this," Masters, the owner of Just About You, said. "I just knew it was my mission."

But, before anyone walks out of the shop, that pain is quickly turned into a positive feeling.

"The biggest thing at the first fitting is when they say, 'You made me whole again,' and they go out laughing and smiling," Masters said, tearing up.

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It's a feeling this mother and daughter know too well. Twelve years ago, while Masters was living in Morristown after moving there for a banking job, and Guillen was preparing to move to Hamblen County, Guillen went to get a mammogram.

"They did a biopsy and found out that it was invasive breast cancer, so it kind of took us all by surprise, but I called my mom and I told her what happened and she said, 'Okay, well I just have a couple of appointments and then I'm gonna come down and we'll get through this together,'" Guillen recalled.

Three days later, Guillen got a call from her mom with news she wasn't prepared for.

"She said, 'Well, we have a problem. One of the appointments I had was for my mammogram and I've also been diagnosed with breast cancer,'" Guillen repeated.

The pair was diagnosed with breast cancer in the same week.

"I got really upset with her," Guillen admitted. "But it was that I can't possibly take care of her if I'm having to take care of myself. So, I wasn't angry that she couldn't take care of me, it was that I couldn't take care of her."

They both were always diligent about getting their mammograms and doing self-checks on their breasts, so the doctors caught their cancers at stage 1.

Because it was an aggressive and genetic form of breast cancer, they both had double mastectomies. Guillen also had to have a hysterectomy. 

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They went through surgery and treatment in different states. One month after surgery, Guillen and her family moved to Hamblen County, where she was closer to her mother.

Through their journeys, Masters saw the need for a shop to be a sanctuary for women with breast cancer. Both she and Guillen admitted they had no idea what all was available to them during and after the process.

Masters became a certified mastectomy fitter, helping women find the right bra and form after surgery. She was hooked on helping, but she wanted to open her own place where patients and survivors felt comfortable.

"Everything is so overwhelming and she just wanted it to be somewhere soft where people felt nice," Guillen explained.

They started a shop in a small room in a hair salon, moved to the basement of the salon shortly after and quickly outgrew that space. They eventually found the little shop near downtown.

For ten years, they have provided a comfortable environment in a community with an extreme need for their services. 

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There are multiple rooms in the shop. In one room, specialized brassieres line the walls, and the women are able to provide post-mastectomy fittings for bras, breast prosthetics and molds.

Credit: WBIR

Another room is home to multiple wigs. They say fitting for wigs is such an emotional experience because it makes the reality of cancer sink in.

Credit: WBIR

They also provide moral support, because they once stood in the same shoes as the people who walk in the shop. Since both women experienced cancer at different stages of life, they are able to provide unique perspectives. They have also comforted many family members over the years who lost loved ones to breast cancer.

Just About You is the only place in the Lakeway area that is able to offer the services in a comfortable and calming environment. The other closest shops are in Knoxville.

Masters said there have been over 700 people come through the shop doors since they have been open. She also said she is not in this business for the money. She has a genuine interest in helping people and is willing to work with patients and survivors on prices that are fair and right.

"So that word, that saying, fight like a girl… I never understood that because that just made no sense," Masters said. "Girls don't fight, you know, but we find in a different way. We fight in the heart."

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Guillen celebrated 12 years cancer-free last week. Masters' cancer-free anniversary is Saturday. Masters did have a portion of her lung affected by lung cancer a few years ago but she was able to get it cut out and recover.

They stressed the importance of self-checks and regular mammograms. They said that's what saved their lives and that being diligent about testing paid off in the long run.

Anyone who would like to make an appointment or donate to Just About You, call (423) 839-0670. The shop is located at 301 E 1st North St Morristown, Tennessee 37814.

The shop is practicing proper social distancing and safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic. The shop asks visitors to make an appointment before stopping by to ensure everything is clean and sanitized before walking in.

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