Madison Homra Finds a Natural Fit in the American Cancer Society

The word “cancer” entered Madison Homra’s life when she was just 7 years old. In 2007, her mother, Stacey Homra, sat her down in her bedroom and shared that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“All I could do was hug her. I didn’t know what the next steps were, but I knew that it was a serious thing. I could tell that it was hard for her to tell me,” Madison says.

Life was different once her mom entered treatment at both UAMS and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But even with her mom being away more often, Madison could feel that Stacey’s dedication to her family was consistent as ever.

“I would have never known anything was wrong with her because she kept going on with her life and making my life as easy as possible. … She was still involved in my activities.”

The journey was full of ups and downs. Stacey was cancer-free for just eight months before it resurfaced. Again, Stacey and her medical team stayed on top of her health. Again, she went to all her screenings, was in and out of treatments and eventually was declared cancer-free.

But in 2014, that word came back into the Homra family’s life.

“It was my 15th birthday and she wasn’t really eating anything and not feeling great,” Madison recalls.

Her family doctor implored her to seek urgent testing in Little Rock, and, in a case unrelated to her previous battle with breast cancer, Stacey was diagnosed with Stage 4 glioblastoma.

An aggressive cancer, glioblastoma begins in the brain or spinal cord. By the time it was discovered, Stacey had a lemon-sized tumor on the front left side of her brain. The treatment plan required multiple surgeries to remove the growth. Her doctor’s prognosis was not optimistic.

Even so, to Madison, her mom’s third battle with cancer was hard-fought, yet full of beautiful moments. Due to the nature of the surgeries, Stacey soon needed around-the-clock care.

“It’s like my mom had two lives — a life before her glioblastoma and then after,” she says. “We were blessed to have that time with her. Especially at the end of my high school years.”

As Madison rounded out her high school career and teenage years, her mom remained a fixture in her life.

“She got to be there for all my major milestones, like cheerleading senior night. She wasn’t feeling great, but I remember her and my dad came out there for it.”

Three years after her diagnosis, Stacey eventually ended her treatment and entered hospice care in Houston. Even though her mother couldn’t return to Arkansas, Madison and her family were thankful. Stacey’s parents and siblings are from Texas, so she always had a loved one in the room with her during her month-long hospice stay.

Today, Stacey’s legacy endures in her daughter.

“The grace she carried throughout the whole process is something I will always look up to and strive to be because in her hardest time, she never complained,” Madison says. “She just wanted to be here for me and for our family.”

As a recent college grad, Madison is pouring back into her community and bringing people together as the event coordinator at Five Oaks Duck Lodge, located just outside Stuttgart. From planning corporate retreats to introducing kids to their first fishing experiences through the lodge’s field trip program, she stays busy and enjoys doing a bit of everything.

During the decade of Stacey’s treatments, remissions, surgeries and relapses, Madison’s understanding of cancer gradually shifted. As a 7-year-old kid, cancer was confusing and scary. Yet as a teen, her concept expanded.

“The word cancer, it pulled [me] closer to family, community, God.”

Community was instrumental during Stacey’s cancer journey. A native of Stuttgart, Madison often recalls the acts of service she received from friends who feel like family.

Credit: Jason Masters
Dress from UNVEILED BRIDAL COLLECTION. Jewelry from SISSY’S LOG CABIN.

“The community of Stuttgart really stands up in good times and in a time of sadness,” Madison says. “They don’t ask, they just do.”

And community is what drew Madison to become a supporter of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“No matter where you live, you can connect with people who are cancer survivors or going through the same treatment through ACS,” says Madison, who knows all too well the power of having encouragers in your corner. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the cheerleaders in my life.”

An attendee of the inaugural Best Dressed Little Rock in 2023, Madison was blown away by the event’s fashionable details like disco dancers and lemon drop martinis, and especially the honorees themselves. (“Everyone dressed to the nines!”)

But the connection was much more personal. Cade Bethea, a close family friend, participated in last year’s event to honor Stacey’s journey and his friendship with Madison. This year, she was encouraged to participate by Personal Pep Rally founder and CARTI board member Misti Coker. And so, she’s moving from the cheering section to the main stage as she joins 19 other honorees, all fellow local professionals tasked with raising funds for ACS.

“I like to do things that would honor my parents and get me involved in ways that push me, that I wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to do,” Madison says. “I’m glad I have an opportunity to do something that is close to my heart and close to my family.”

Just like last year, Best Dressed Little Rock is specifically focused on making an impact in central Arkansas.

“All the money raised is going to Arkansas Access to Care grants,” says Sofia Ashcraft, local development manager for ACS. “In Arkansas, our primary objective is to eliminate obstacles to health care access. Recognizing, comprehending and mitigating these barriers are critical steps toward achieving health equity.”

And that’s where the grants come in. These funds support two key services that enable even the most vulnerable of our state to receive treatments.

The first is the Road to Recovery program. According to ACS, lack of transportation is the top barrier for patients with cancer attending crucial appointments. This initiative removes roadblocks to lifesaving care by providing free transportation for patients with cancer, all fueled by volunteers.

The other key resource Best Dressed supports is free and reduced-cost lodging for patients who have to travel for treatments. Supported through ACS’s Hope Lodge program and a partnership with Extended Stay America, the program removes yet another financial barrier to treatments and helps cut down on inequities in patient outcomes.

Beyond these two practical programs, ACS also collaborates with local treatment facilities to ensure each patient receives the care they need, regardless of the hurdles.

“Going forward, we will continue to identify and address barriers to care for all Arkansans along the continuum of cancer care,” Ashcraft says. “Our comprehensive approach encompasses everything from preventive measures and early detection to compassionate end-of-life care.”

Arkansas presents a unique arena in the fight against cancer. In 2024 alone, an estimated 19,100 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the state. Plus, Arkansas currently has a higher-than-average cancer mortality rate: 168 cancer-related deaths per 100,000 to the national 147.5. To this end, ACS also focuses on local activism. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the ACS advocacy arm, works with the Arkansas legislature to put forth policies to strengthen the local fight to end cancer. Its focus for 2024 includes supporting efforts toward adequate health insurance access, including Medicaid, and stronger prescription drug transparency. In the prevention realm, it is working toward robust early detection programs for breast, cervical and colon cancer, plus reducing tobacco usage and its toll on Arkansans. Advocates also urge legislators to maintain or increase appropriations for cancer research funding.

Another major contribution ACS makes locally and across the country is creating space for cancer patients and caregivers to make integral connections. In addition to the daily impact of providing free rides and lodging, ACS has established a 24/7 helpline, robust cancer resources and an active online community created for and by patients with cancer and their families.

And now, with last year’s introduction of Best Dressed Little Rock, central Arkansas is also enjoying the new community growing around the annual gala.

“In 2023, ACS decided to change things up,” Ashcraft says. “The inspiration came from the success seen in our Best Dressed Baton Rouge and Jackson events. These two events have grown into must-attend events, raising more than $1.5 million dollars in 2023.”

Ashcraft attributes these events’ success to the honorees’ involvement, and she saw potential in Arkansas.

“Central Arkansas has some very stylish people, so it seemed to be a natural fit.”

In its second year, Best Dressed Little Rock has a new venue and a new goal. Inaugural honorees set a high bar by raising $175,000 and throwing a flawless, fashion-forward party at The Hall. This year, the party will be held at Rusty Tractor Vineyards as the honorees work toward a $350,000 goal.

“Rusty Tractor Vineyards will provide a unique canvas for creativity for the second iteration of Best Dressed,” says Ashcraft, noting the main attraction of the gala is unchanged. “The true highlight remains the honorees themselves gracing the runway with renewed commitment and elevated style.”

Credit: Jason Masters
Clothing from DILLARD’S. Jewelry from SISSY’S LOG CABIN.

Starting with the honoree reveal party in March, Madison has enjoyed the community-building she’s experienced so far.

“It was fun to get to know the rest of the honorees, to just know that everyone has a story and how much cancer affects so many of our lives. Everyone has some sort of connection to cancer and has a story about it,” Madison says.

And her reach will extend beyond our state. For the June 14 event, Madison will be surrounded by her own personal cheering section with family coming in from Texas and Kentucky to celebrate the event and honor Stacey’s legacy.

Although she’s keeping her event look a surprise, it’s no secret what drew her to this event in particular. Madison is also a huge fan of the fashion aspect of Best Dressed.

“I studied apparel in college and have always had a sense of fashion,” she says, pointing to a passion she connects back to her mom.

“She loved shopping and taking me shopping. I thankfully look back at pictures and am never embarrassed with the clothes she put me in,” Madison says with a laugh. “With her and my dad going to so many events, she always looked amazing. She never went out of the house without lipstick.”

And Madison has no doubt her mom would’ve loved attending this stylish celebration, too.

“This event brings together these two loves of mine — support for the fight against cancer and fashion. It’s perfect.”

Best Dressed Little Rock
Benefiting the American Cancer Society of Arkansas
June 14, 6 p.m. | Rusty Tractor Vineyards

Info: e.givesmart.com/events/AE8/


PHOTOGRAPHY
JASON MASTERS
HAIR & MAKEUP
LORI WENGER
CLOTHING
DILLARD’S & UNVEILED BRIDAL COLLECTION
JEWELRY
SISSY’S LOG CABIN
SHOT ON LOCATION AT
THE OLD MILL


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