WELLMAN — While the coronavirus has everyone on edge and worried, there is a greater menace always on the prowl — cancer.
That disease is being met head on by Marge McArtor with the help of some coaches in the River Valley Conference.
Coaching and teaching youth holds a special place in the heart of the McArtor family.
McArtor is the matriarch in a family of coaches.
Her husband, Tracy McArtor, is in his 13th year coaching the girls golf team at Mid Prairie. He retired from Procter & Gamble July 1 of last summer after 38 years. Marge McArtor will retire from her current job of teaching at Highland at the end of this school year.
Both Marge and Tracy McArtor are graduates of Mid-Prairie High School, Tracy in 1979 and Marge in 1980. Marge graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in education and received her Master’s degree from Graceland College. She taught and coached (track and field) at Mid-Prairie for 22 years before teaching at Highland.
The McArtor have two daughters. Allison (McArtor) Rice, who lives in Gowrie and is a Special-Education teacher, will take over the girls golf program at Southeast Valley next spring. Mallory McArtor lives in Cedar Falls with her boyfriend and new son Crue. She is the current Mid-Prairie softball coach, readying for her second season and is also the assistant softball coach at Southwestern Community College in Creston.
“It is safe to say we have quite a coaching family,” Tracy said.
That is just the immediate blood family of the McArtors. They also have a family of coaches. That family rallied when they heard the news of Marge McArtor’s plight.
“When Marge was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, there were a ton of unknowns as to what lies ahead for us: more doctor visits, tests, treatments and potentially just some not very good days,” Tracy said.
Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most advanced form of the disease. In stage IV, the cancer has metastasized, or spread, beyond the lungs into other areas of the body. The standard management of stage IV lung cancer is palliative chemotherapy with platinum-based combination chemotherapy. However, there are some reports of patients with lung cancer with only a malignant pleural effusion and no other metastatic sites that have long-term cures with chemotherapy and surgery.
A five-year lung cancer survival rate measures how many people are living five years after they were diagnosed with lung cancer. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer is less than 10 percent. However, relative survival rates don’t take into account recent improvements in treatment.
In its early stages, lung cancer doesn’t typically have symptoms you can see or feel, but later, symptoms are a persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, fluid buildup around lungs, severe fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea.
Patients with advanced lung cancer can live many years after diagnosis. Sometimes patients who are told that their lung cancer is incurable live longer than many who are told that their lung cancer is curable.
There is much more hope for those with Stage 4 lung cancer than in the past. It’s important to note that the prognosis for people with stage 4 lung cancer is improving; new treatments are becoming available, and survival rates are improving.
When the news of Marge McArtor’s situation spread in January of this year, coaches from across the River Valley Conference stepped up in a big way.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union first shared the story of how a group of coaches — Jan Oneil from West Branch, Jaime Meyer from Wilton, James Laughlin from West Liberty, Heath Hesse from Tipton, Denise Ahrens from Durant — came together to support one of their colleagues.
“When it came to the golf season, I wasn’t sure what kind of time commitments I would struggle with when it came to practice and meets given the circumstances around Marge’s illness,” Tracy McArtor said. “First of all, my athletic director (Tyler Hotz) and the boys golf coach, Kelby Bender, made sure that we knew they would help in any capacity they could (like) covering for me at a missed practice or taking the kids to a meet if I were unable to attend.
“My biggest concern was that we were to be the host school for this year’s River Valley Conference Golf Meet. With 13 teams in the conference, I know from experience how much time is involved in just the pre-work alone that goes into getting ready for that meet. That is when I reached out to my fellow coaches and let them in on what we had learned with Marge’s health and that I may need some help with the conference event. They instantly responded with offers to help with that event, but also with anything else they could, not limited to high school golf.”
The offer to help with Mid-Prairie’s hosting of the RVC conference meet that was to take place at Blue Top Ridge in Riverside this spring was a godsend to the McArtors. The coaches also offered assistance in a variety of other capacities.
“They are the kindest and [most] supportive group of, not just coaching friends, but true friends!” McArtor told IGHSAU.
While the season ultimately did not take place, this caring group of coaches was ready to show their support and surprise Tracy and his wife by wearing shirts that said “No One Fights Alone” and the slogan “Fighting FORE you.”
IGHSAU shared this story as a reminder that the athletics community always comes together in a time of need. That happens throughout real life and not just on the court, or between the lines on the field, or from tee to green on the course.
“The biggest thing, though, is these coaches and their support,” Tracy McArtor said.
Read tomorrow’s Union for more on the McArtors and the River Valley Conference coaches’ support.