Every year during the Casper rodeo Mom helps her friend Sharon sell Tough Enough To Wear Pink and Fight Like a Girl t-shirts. The proceeds go to the Angels Program at Wyoming Medical Center who provide support for cancer patients and their caregivers. Mom gets to wear a survivor t-shirt because she beat colon cancer in 1995. The picture above is from last year.
This picture is from this year. Notice she changed her hairstyle. She didn’t really want to change her hairstyle. She really liked it the way it was. But cancer has a way of making you do things you don’t really want to do, like chemo and radiation and losing all your hair.
You see, in January of this year she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. She found a lump right before Christmas. The biopsy was scheduled for January 3rd. My sister Jamie asked me, “How worried should we be about this?” I said “Oh surely it will be nothing, what are the chances, really, after everything that Dad went just went through for our family to have another major medical problem, surely the odds are in our favor.” To say we were stunned would be a major understatement.
But Mom wasn’t. She knew, as Mom’s often do, before the tests were done what the result would be and was already steeling herself for what she knew would lie ahead. Chemo was rough. Really rough. There was one day that she said to me “I don’t know if I’m tough enough.” But she was. Of course she was. She always has been. They don’t come any tougher.
She was tough enough to survive being the only girl sandwiched between two brothers. Tough enough to grow up on a ranch filled with cowboys where fellow cowgirls were few and far between. And the only girl in her one room school.
She was tough enough to figure out how to manage being a wife at 18 and a mom at 19. Tough enough to cook for a crew of 10 or more cowboys with two preschoolers and a toddler underfoot.
She was tough enough to sit through a painful number of steer shows, horse shows, high school rodeos and basketball games. Tough enough to volunteer at school, 4-H, church, and Women in Ag.
Tough enough to survive getting four girls through the teenage years and all the drama that comes with them…..and all the drama that comes after them.
Tough enough to do all that and nurse so many of us back to health after countless injuries and illnesses, that if experience was all that counted she would have earned a Physician Assistant degree by now.
Tough enough to cook, clean, do laundry, pay bills, fix fence, move cattle, calve heifers, doctor horses (and people), keep track of everyones schedules, appointments and birthdays, make beautiful quilts, set up a museum for family and community history, feed cattle, stack hay, kill rattlesnakes and shoot beaver. There really isn’t anything she can’t do, except swim, and yet that does not deter her from jumping off the dock into the lake because her grandkids asked her to.
She is more than tough enough. Aside from the bald head, a few extra naps here and there and a couple of really scary trips to the ER you might not have noticed that she was going through cancer treatment. Not because it was that easy, it wasn’t. Because she was that tough. She even took the midnight shift during calving, reasoning that since the chemo side effects were keeping her up anyway she might as well make herself useful. She was, she is, more than tough enough.
Dad may wear the cowboy hat and be the one that gets the TV interviews with the cute reporters but none of it works without Mom. Without Mom things don’t happen. Dad doesn’t eat (man cannot live on cheetos, milk shakes and BV and 7) bills don’t get paid, appointments are forgotten, phone calls are not returned, no one is ever where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there, personnel issues are not resolved and general chaos and mayhem ensues. She’s the one who makes it work. And she’s the only one who’s tough enough to do it.