80s Night benefit on June 12 will support local battling breast cancer

Lisa Austell Mahoney poses on the patio at Daddy Billy’s. The area bar and restaurant will host a benefit for her on Saturday, June 12 beginning at 8 p.m. Mahoney is currently fighting stage two breast cancer. (Lynchburg Times Photo)

Lisa Austell Mahoney sits at her spot on the Single Barrel bottling line when she gets the text she’s been both dreading and expecting. It’s the morning of May 25 and she’s waiting on the results of a recent breast biopsy.

A little over a month earlier, the look and sense of urgency coming from the radiologist after her routine mammogram at Vanderbilt Harton told her what she didn’t want to know. Now the word “cancer” is ringing in her ears.

“When I saw the text message on my phone that the results were in, I immediately started crying because I already knew,” Lisa said. “I was devastated. It was scary, to say the least.”

Lisa, moved to Moore County in 1987, then briefly to Lewisburg before returning to Moore County in 2000. She currently lives in Tullahoma and has two adult children, Tyffani Adams and Hunter Mahoney, who both graduated from Moore County High School.

She’s a social butterfly with a wide circle of friend who enjoys camping and being outdoors when she’s not working on the Single Barrel line at Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

“Most people think I’m from Moore County because I know almost everybody in Moore County,” Lisa explains. “But I was raised in and graduated from Tullahoma.”

At the age of 52, Lisa says the idea of cancer felt scary until she got more details. Doctors have told her it’s stage two and very treatable. They discovered it early and that’s key.

“I really want to stress yearly mammograms and early detection,” she says. “Jack Daniel is great because they offer mobile mammograms each year. We make a day of it with games and activities.”

For the past five years, during the first week of October, the distillery hosts the St. Thomas Health Mobile Mammography Coach for its employees. It’s a program sponsored by Susan G. Komen Greater Nashville to offer mammograms in rural communities. It is just one of many at work health screenings the distillery offers like skin cancer screenings, prostrate screenings as well as COVID and flu vaccinations.

“We feel as if the convenience of healthcare services at work saves employees time and increases the likelihood that they will be proactive in their health,” distillery officials said.

Lisa says she’ll go back to the Vanderbilt Breast Center this week to have gBRCA gene mutation testing completed. Patients with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are more likely to experience breast and ovarian cancers. The results of that test will help her and her doctor decide which course of treatment to begin.

“As soon as I get those results, I’ll encourage my daughter to also get tested. She’s in the medical field so she understands how important it is,” she says.

With a little help from her friends

Lisa didn’t face her diagnosis alone. The night the text came in her good friend and co-worker, Becca Smith, held her hand as they tried to decipher the pathology report.

“I didn’t want to open it up by myself, so she opened it with me,” Lisa says. “A pathology report is hard to read if your not a medical professional, but she and I could tell it was positive. At that point, I didn’t know what stage it was, I didn’t have all the details.”

Becca lost her husband, Nick Smith, one of the co-owners of Daddy Billy’s in February 2020 so she knows how hard staring down the barrel of a cancer diagnosis can be. She also knew that even with the best insurance, lots of unexpected expenses would pop up, so she wanted to support her friend in the best way she knew how — a benefit to cover all the unexpected costs that come with battling cancer.

“Lisa was such a good friend to both Nick and I during his illness,” Becca says. ” When he had his first brain surgery, she was there at the hospital that day to show her support. When he came home for hospice care, she delivered gifts from her and my work to my home.”

Right now Lisa says she’s traveling to Nashville twice a weeks for tests and doctor’s visits. Though she’s got great insurance and plenty of vacation and family leave days to help her, she fears what might happen when that paid time off runs out.

“It stinks when your a one income family. I’m not married, so I don’t have that extra income to fall back on,” she says.

Lisa says doctors have told her that even if her cancer requires a full mastectomy, that a plastic surgeon will be in the room the day of that surgery to immediately perform a reconstruction.

“You used to have to wait several months, but now it all happens in the same day.”

An eighties night benefit at Daddy Billy’s

A couple of weeks after her diagnosis, Lisa casually mentioned to Becca that she’d like to get together and listen to eighties music with friends to keep her mind off the diagnosis.

“The next thing I knew, she posted about a benefit,” Lisa laughs.

Becca says she just wanted to pay forward all the love and support she and Nick received from Lisa during their battle with brain cancer.

“I want to raise money, of course, but she asked for a girls night and 80s night before all the treatment and surgery and I want to give her that. I can’t wait to see the smile on her face when she realizes how much community support she has.”

That 80’s Night benefit at Daddy’s Billy’s will happen on Saturday in Tullahoma. The event will feature DJ Special K playing all the big hair bands and hip hop of the eighties and guests are encouraged to dress in their big haired, neon best. The event starts at 6 p.m. with music starting at 8 p.m. It is free but donations for Lisa will be taken at the door.

“I grew up in the eighties. I graduated from Tullahoma High School in 1987,” Lisa says. “On Saturday nights, we cruised Tullahoma from the Sonic to Northgate Mall with our big hair and Bon Jovi blaring. It was just such a fun decade.”

When we asked if she’d picked out her eighties attire for her benefit yet, Lisa demurs.

“I know we’re gonna crimp our hair and maybe wear an off the shoulder shirt, maybe some leggings,” she says.

If you can’t attend Saturday’s benefit but would still like to support Lisa in her cancer battle, you can donate to Lisa directly through PayPal (@lisamahoney1) or Venmo (@lisa-mahoney-48). •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}