In August of 2004, I went for my yearly, routine mammogram and wham – there was a spidery shadow on my x-ray. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. Since my mom had breast cancer twice before – 6 years apart – and had successful mastectomies both times, with no complications, no chemo, no radiation, I immediately knew what I wanted to do. With my doctor’s permission, I delayed surgery for 1 month until my rodeo season was finished – I was up for the Redeye Rodeo Company series trophy buckle.
In addition to the shocking news of ‘the big C,’ I was between jobs and we had no health insurance. Muddling through scores of advice, I was directed to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition (PBCC). They helped me secure a spot with a state-run “Healthy Woman” program, which covered the majority of my health care costs throughout my surgery and treatments.
Many mastectomy patients don’t require it, but because of my age (45) and the size of the tumor, I went through 4 rounds of chemotherapy. With good meds and good care, I had very few side effects. Never got horribly sick although I did lose my hair and felt achy like I had the flu. But it was worth it to have life! I also chose to not have reconstructive surgery and have never regretted that decision. I’d had enough of hospitals and surgeries by then – just wanted to get back to a normal life.
As a survivor and an avid barrel racer, I wanted to find a way to return the kindness and generosity shown to me in my time of need. Along with the Redeye Rodeo Company, we founded Ride4Life in 2011, and have donated over $20,000 to the PBCC to date. The 9th Annual Ride4Life will be held this year on April 20th in Annville, PA.
Early detection is key! I encourage every mom, sister, daughter, wife and friend to get a mammogram – it’s easy and it saved my life! Thank you, Twisted X, for airing my story.
And yes: I won that 2004 Redeye Rodeo Barrel Series – I’m proudly wearing the trophy buckle in this photo with my great horse Reggie!