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Marsha Knicley-Masood - honoring a mother's memory

Founder - Life Is a Gift

Founder - Life Is a Gift

October 15, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

There are a million and one things that Marsha Knicley-Masood misses about her mother.

But what she'll never forget is her smile.

"When I think of her, I see her smiling," Knicley-Masood says. "Even while she was fighting breast cancer, she tried to remain upbeat. That was who she was."

Her daughter also remembers her as a caring person, "who was always doing for others."

When Rosemary Finney died, it was time to do something for her.

"She battled breast cancer for 20 years," Knicley-Masood says. "It was a long fight. And when it ended, I wanted to honor her memory."

A well-known Hagerstown hairdresser and stylist and the owner and CEO of Sagittarius Salon and Sanctuary Spa, Knicley-Masood decided to channel her passion for beauty into a program to help women diagnosed with cancer.

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Ten years ago, she founded Life is a Gift, a not-for-profit organization, aimed at educating patients and their families through seminars and workshops.

She also hosts an annual "Day of Beauty" for women with cancer, free of charge, in her salon.

"It's a day of pampering for cancer survivors," Knicley-Masood says. "Women receive haircuts, styles, manicures, makeup tips and massages. Food and gifts are also included, donated by area merchants."

In the past, the "Day of Beauty" was open only to breast cancer survivors. But this year, Knicley-Masood says women affected by all types of cancer were invited.

"There are so many issues women have to deal with when they're diagnosed with cancer," she says. "Beauty is one of them. I have some women tell me that losing their hair is worse than losing a breast."

In addition to receiving the royal treatment, Knicley-Masood says, "Day of Beauty" also gives women a chance to talk with each other about their cancer.

"I think it gives them hope to see they are not alone."

As a hairdresser, Knicley-Masood says she often has clients who have been diagnosed with cancer and are about to go through chemotherapy or radiation.

"They know they might lose their hair, and they want to do something about it before it happens," she says. "I like to meet with them before they have their treatment, see how they wear their hair, match up colors and help them pick out a wig from a catalog. I tell them, 'you might not need it, but if you do, call me.'"

Because her mother had breast cancer, Knicley-Masood says she is acutely aware that she and her daughter are at risk for having the disease.

"But I try to take care of myself," she says. "I have my regular checkups and mammograms, and my daughter and I both do a lot of research on what is new in the fight against breast cancer. I think it's important to stay informed."

Knicley-Masood says she is proud of Life is a Gift and thinks her mother would be proud, too.

"I just wish I could do more," she says.

On Oct. 7, Sagittarius will be celebrating its 35th anniversary with a charity event for the American Cancer Society - Patient Advocates.

Marie Gilbert is a feature writer for The Herald-Mail Company. She can be reached at marieg@herald-mail.com.

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