Do you know what TETWP can do for you?
by Cayla Vidmar
It’s a thought on the periphery of many a woman’s mind, but the reality of a breast cancer diagnosis is jarring regardless of how many times you’ve thought about the possibility. For Staci, April 25, 2018 will always be a day remembered, a moment in time when everything changed. Ductal carcinoma in situ, the doctor said. Five months later, Staci has gone through surgery and radiation, and is on the other side of a diagnosis she never anticipated, with the help of Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink (TETWP), a non-profit dedicated to breast cancer assistance.
“Cattlemen’s Days TETWP started in 2005 as part of the national Wrangler Tough Enough To Wear Pink campaign, which is connected to PRCA Rodeos across the country,” writes Cattlemen’s Days TETWP executive director Heidi Sherratt via email. “There were some local women at the time who were battling breast cancer so a couple of Cattlemen’s Days committee members thought it would be a great program to bring to Gunnison to raise money to help.”
Now, more than a decade later, Cattlemen’s Days TETWP is the number one TETWP fundraiser in the country, out of more than 300 organizations, and has given more than $75,000 to locals to assist with medical bills, living expenses, and transportation costs. Since its inception, according to a press release, in partnership with Wrangler, the organization has raised $2.7 million in local funds. According to Heidi, this money has been spent in myriad ways, from new equipment at the hospital, two vehicles for breast cancer patients to use for travel to appointments, and paying for mammograms or ultrasounds, among numerous other programs and needs in the Gunnison Valley. It was a little idea that blossomed into the giving powerhouse it is today.
For Staci, the assistance wasn’t something she even considered amidst the chaos of a daughter graduating from high school, a 45th birthday celebration and then a cancer diagnosis. But upon submitting the paperwork to TETWP for assistance, immediately the love—and financial support—started coming in.
By mid-July, Staci had already undergone surgery to remove the tumor, and was due for 21 days of radiation, five days a week in Montrose. “I don’t think I can handle this. I am not this strong,” she wrote in reflection of that month. Staci was shocked when she received a call from TETWP—she was put on the schedule to use the TETWP truck to go to her radiation appointments, and was given gas cards to fill it up. All told, Staci drove 2,500 miles in those 21 days, and it was all covered, the burden removed from her and her family’s shoulders.
The support kept rolling in for Staci. “Really? Get my bills together and TETWP will pay them? TETWP offers house-cleaning services. They offer services through the hospital like rehab and massage therapy at no charge,” she says. Staci writes of many moments during that time of tears, shock and unending support from the TETWP staff. It seems every time Staci thought she was at the end of the rope, TETWP stepped in, offering another service, another expense paid, some small—like a massage—but all a massive relief in the rushing current of cancer.
Financial assistance isn’t the only thing Cattlemen’s Days TETWP is responsible for in the Gunnison Valley. “I would say the work we are doing with Gunnison Valley Hospital is pretty important for the community as a whole,” says Heidi. “Getting state of the art equipment, excellent physicians, and expanded services helps everyone in the community.” TETWP is responsible for bringing in the 3D tomosynthesis machine, which Heidi says is one of the best in the state at detecting breast cancer early, especially for women with dense breast tissue.
Heidi says the huge success of the program is due to the part-time and full-time locals and community that donate to the organization, and Dean Dillon, country music icon, “who brings in his very talented songwriter friends from Nashville to put on a singer songwriter concert and fundraiser for TETWP in July.” The best part? Every dollar raised for Cattlemen’s Days TETWP stays in the valley to assist local women going through a breast cancer diagnosis.
On September 14, 2018, Staci wrote “Last day of radiation. Is it really done? Yes, done.” Staci is a breast cancer survivor who made it through one of the most difficult seasons of her life, with the help of an incredible organization. “It gave me the chance to focus on healing my body, and not be worried about paying thousands of dollars in medical bills,” she says.
“It is impossible for me to put into words how amazing TETWP is. The kind words, the encouragement, the services. Most important, the people. My family and I cannot thank you enough for everything you all have done over the last five months,” Staci says.
October is breast cancer awareness month, and if you’re interested in donating to the cause, you can do so online at GunnisonTETWP.com.