Rebekah Mason has come a long way since her freshman year at Newman Catholic High School.
Mason, 19, a 2019 Newman Catholic graduate, was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, in 2015, and she has used her diagnosis to help others with chronic illnesses since then.
“I get this chance to go from someone who was really sick to being able to advocate and support those who now are going through the things I went through,” she said.
'They saved my life'
Five years ago, Mason didn’t know if she’d get to play sports, graduate from high school or attend college.
For months she experienced random — unexplainable — bouts of unconsciousness that resulted in multiple injuries and concussions.
As her condition worsened, she was unable to attend school more than two days a week or participate in sports like volleyball and basketball.
“It was hard to even know what was going to come next,” she said.
Mason was diagnosed with POTS, a blood circulation disorder, after eight months.
She participated in a four-week pediatric inpatient program at Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Clinic in January 2016 where she worked with health care professionals to manage her symptoms.
After the program, she was able to return to school and participate in non-contact sports, like cross country and track, with modifications to her diet and her lifestyle.
“I came out of that program almost completely stable,” she said. “They saved my life.”
Mason, the youngest of Bill and Anne Mason’s five children, said her experience with POTS gave her the courage to try something she never had before: Pageants.
A love for pageants
Her first pageant was the North Iowa Fair Queen Contest in 2017, where she was named first runner-up.
She said she enjoyed meeting new people and talking to new people.
“I’ve always kind of been a performer,” she said. “I love being in the spotlight.”
After the fair queen contest, Mason decided to participate in the National American Miss Pageant system.
She competed in the Miss Iowa Teen pageant and was crowned second runner-up.
“I ended up falling in love with it,” she said.
Mason was crowned Junior Miss Great Lakes at the Princess of America Pageant Minnesota, Wisconsin and Great Lakes in Faribault, Minnesota, earlier this year in a modified pageant format due to COVID-19. She will represent Iowa at Nationals in November in Branson, Missouri.
Princess of America is a national and natural pageant system for girls ages 4 to 24 that emphasizes community service.
Mason said being involved in pageants gave her the platform for Chronic STRENGTH, a support network for individuals with chronic illnesses.
She currently has two support groups, one for middle school and high school students and the other for college students at the University of Iowa.
Mason said after she was diagnosed with POTS in high school, she got involved in online support groups on social media, but when she started attending the University of Iowa last fall, she wanted something more.
She started the Chronic STRENGTH support group in October with about 30 college students with different chronic illnesses meeting at an Iowa City coffee shop.
“It wasn’t so much talking about how awful our lives were or like every little thing we were struggling with but just having people around us that knew how hard it was sometimes to be in college,” Mason said.
She said the support groups, which meet informally every other week, went virtual this spring when the university ceased in-person classes.
Mason, who is an exercise science and pre-physician assistant student, said the groups have given her the opportunity to connect with 30 people who are going through a similar situation as her to make the transition from high school to college less stressful, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
As Junior Miss Great Lakes, she hopes to launch similar groups at colleges across the state, including Iowa State, University of Northern Iowa and North Iowa Area Community College to provide support to other students with chronic illnesses during this time.
“I think there are so many other people who could use it,” Mason said. “I definitely want to try to expand it.”
The Princess of America national pageant was scheduled for July 19-25, but it was postponed in late June due to COVID-19.
It will be Mason’s fourth — and largest — pageant.
“I think it’s awesome that I get to represent Mason City and North Iowa because I think that it’s an awesome place and that it doesn’t always get to have its time in the spotlight,” she said.
Mason’s mother, Anne, said it’s been fun to see her daughter shine in the pageants and advocate for a cause she’s passionate about.
“She works really hard for everything she does,” she said.
Mason has plans to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House, the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the American Red Cross this year as well as throughout the North Iowa region.
To follow Mason's journey to Nationals in Branson, Missouri, visit the Princess of America Junior Miss Great Lakes Facebook page.
Abbey Holmes - Athlete - Algona
Abigail Wedeking - Arts - Charles City
Adamari Barranca - Technical - West Hancock
Alex Bunn - Technical - Mason City
Alexis Rozen - Language - Mason City
Allie Bigley - Athlete - Riceville
Alyssa Nelson - Music - Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Alyssa Shirk - Music - Hampton-Dumont
Amanda Chizek - Science, Athlete - West Hancock
Amber Reams - Athlete - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Andrew Peters - Technical - North Butler
Ashley Thoma - Arts - Lake Mills
Ashlin Young - Language - Algona
Austin Efflandt - Music - Northwood-Kensett
Bella Parker - Language - Clear Lake
Braden Petree - Math - Newman Catholic
Bradley Andrews - Math, Athlete - Charles City
Brandon Fordyce - Technical - Forest City
Braxton Pinske - Science - Central Springs
Brett Hanson - Athlete - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Brettin Linder - Social Science - Forest City
Brianne DeVries - Arts, Music - Nashua-Plainfield
Brody Koenigs - Science - Riceville
Caden Schrage - Athlete - Northwood-Kensett
Caden Sifert - Music - Belmond-Klemme
Caleb Hommez - Arts - Algona
Callie King - Language - Osage
Cayden Kelley - Math - Central Springs
Cedric Frerichs - Athlete - North Iowa High School
Chase Halbach - Math - Osage
Clara Davidson - Language - Northwood-Kensett
Colby Wilkerson - Science, Athlete - North Butler
Collin Kollasch - Arts - Newman Catholic
Collin Witte - Math - West Fork
Cooper Kuhlemeier - Math - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Courtney Miller - Athlete - Hampton-Dumont
Cullan Schriever - Althete - Mason City
Dakkota Engel - Social Science - Central Springs
Daniel Stephenson - Arts - Mason City
Darian Cleveland - Music - Charles City
Dawson Hinders - Social Science - Charles City
Elijah Alden - Arts - Hampton-Dumont
Elizabeth McCormick - Language - Central Springs
Ella Hughes - Math - North Iowa High School
Emily Caspers - Athlete - West Fork
Emily Shatek - Music - Newman Catholic
Emma Ramon - Science - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Emma Schroeder - Language - Belmond-Klemme
Erin Caylor - Athlete - Forest City
Evan Kalainoff - Athlete - Nashua-Plainfield
Gabriela Castelan - Language - Mason City
Gaby Snyder - Social Science - Newman Catholic
Grace Clark - Science - Newman Catholic
Grace Tobin - Athlete - Mason City
Hailey Blix - Language - Lake Mills
Hailey Worman - Language - Newman Catholic
Haley Beminio - Athlete - Belmond-Klemme
Hannah Main - Athlete - North Iowa High School
Hannah Patterson - Athlete - St. Ansgar
Hannah Thomas - Social Science - Mason City
Hunter Kuhlemeier - Social Science - Clear Lake
Ian Latham - Athlete - West Fork
Isaac Swaney - Science - Nashua-Plainfield
Isabel Redinger - Language - Forest City
Jaace Weidemann - Athlete - Belmond-Klemme
Jack Sievert - Athlete - St. Ansgar
Jackson Loge - Math - Clear Lake
Jacob Adams - Music - Algona
Jacob Leerar - Technical - Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Jacob Mehmen - Math - Mason City
Jadyn North - Arts - St. Ansgar
Jaela Parks - Athlete - Northwood-Kensett
James Minardi - Math - Hampton-Dumont
Jasmine Sanasinh - Music - Forest City
Jason Cecil - Math - Algona
Jaydon Gansen - Math - Belmond-Klemme
Jaylen DeVries - Athlete - Clear Lake
Jayne Levi - Social Science - Nashua-Plainfield
Jennifer Overy - Music - Central Springs
Jessa Gasteiger - Athlete - Lake Mills
Joe Sullivan - Technical - Osage
John May - Technical - St. Ansgar
Jonah Christianson - Social Science - Belmond-Klemme
Jordan Klueber - Language - Nashua-Plainfield
Josh Staley - Music - St. Ansgar
Joshua Olson - Science - Forest City
Judge Losee - Athlete - Riceville
Kaitlyn Walthall - Music - Mason City
Kara Branstad - Arts - Clear Lake
Katey Tegtmeyer - Arts - West Hancock
Kayla Carroll - Arts - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Kayley Kelley - Athlete - Central Springs
Kevin Aberg - Math - Forest City
Kevin Jordan - Math - Riceville
Kollyn Lentz - Math - Nashua-Plainfield
Kristian Gunderson - Athlete - Forest City
Kylie Laudner - Science - West Fork
Laela Ragsdale - Technical - Hampton-Dumont
Landon Dalbeck - Athlete - Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Lauren Connell - Technical - Charles City
Leslie Carlos - Technical - Belmond-Klemme
Liberty Bonin - Arts - Belmond-Klemme
Liberty Fisher - Athlete - Nashua-Plainfield
Lily Castle - Athlete - Newman Catholic
Lisabeth Fiser - Athlete - Charles City
Lucy Schmidt - Language - Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Luke McKenna - Technical - Algona
Luke Mulholland - Science - Mason City
Lydia Futrell - Science - Clear Lake
Madeline Hinz - Athlete - Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Madison Klingenborg - Athlete - North Butler
Makenna Schmiedel - Science - Charles City
Maleah Benttine - Science - Osage
Mason Fritz - Athlete - Lake Mills
Matthew Olson - Social Science - Osage
Max Howes - Athlete - Central Springs
McKinzie Johanns - Music - Mason City
Mercedes Lesmeister - Language - Riceville
Mihir Modi - Science - Algona
Mikayla Heit - Language - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Mollie Hearn - Music - North Butler
Nadia Peinke - Language - Hampton-Dumont
Nadia Treichel - Social Science - North Butler
Nashaun Bryant - Social Science - West Fork
Nashaun Bryant - Social Science - West Fork
Neil Gogerty - Math - Mason City
Nicholas Huinker - Social Science - Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Noralyn Clark - Social Science - West Hancock
Olivia Sarasio Meyer - Arts - Forest City
Olivia Staudt - Social Science - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Ophelia Xavier Tyler - Language - Charles City
Payton Felper - Arts - Osage
Pedro Martinez - Science - Belmond-Klemme
Peyton Pangburn - Social Science - Northwood-Kensett
Phoenix Barlas - Technical - Newman Catholic
Rafe Miller - Music - Osage
Rainy Kock - Math - North Butler
Reina Trosper - Math - Northwood-Kensett
Riley Engelhardt - Arts - North Butler
Riley Engelhardt - Arts - North Butler
Riley Hiscocks - Language - West Hancock
Robyn Wendel - Arts - Central Springs
Ross DeArmoun - Technical - Northwood-Kensett
Ryan Wagner - Language - St. Ansgar
Sam Kratz - Athlete - Newman Catholic
Samantha Davis - Language - North Iowa High School
Samuel Childress - Science - Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
Sara Faber - Athlete - Clear Lake
Sarah McCormick - Arts - Northwood-Kensett
Sawyer Salisbury - Technical - Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock
Shane Hillesheim - Technical - Nashua-Plainfield
Sidney Brandau - Athlete - Osage
Sierra Billick - Music - North Iowa High School
Sierra Sullivan - Arts - Riceville
Sky Toyne - Music - Clear Lake
Sullivan Fair - Technical - Riceville
Sydney Meyer - Science - Hampton-Dumont
Tanner Swenson - Social Science - Riceville
Tate Hagen - Athlete - West Hancock
Theodore Behrends - Technical - Central Springs
Thor Maakestad - Athlete - Osage
Tiffany Sherwood - Music - West Hancock
Tony Cadena - Social Science - Mason City
Trae Butler - Technical - Lake Mills
Wyatt Sutter - Athlete - Hampton-Dumont
Wyatt Wegener - Athlete - Algona
Zachary Welsher - Social Science - Hampton-Dumont
Zachery Hauptman - Social Science - Algona
Ashley Stewart covers Clear Lake and arts and entertainment in North Iowa for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 641-421-0533. Follow Ashley on Twitter at GGastewart.
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