GUNNISON, Colo. – As a RAM 1500 pickup, “Tuffy is rugged and durable.
But that’s not why it has the moniker. Tuffy is the Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink’s transportation truck that was bought to help breast cancer patients get to their out-of-town medical appointments safely and comfortably.
In the Gunnison valley, it usually means there are mountain passes to navigate.
“We purchased Tuffy last fall because we saw a need in our community,” said Heidi Sherratt Bogart, executive director of Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink. “Because we have patients who need to travel to their appointments and treatments, we wanted them to be able to have a dependable vehicle to make the trips.
“It’s because of our community and the generosity of the people here that we’re able to do that. Tuffy helps relieve some of the stress that comes with being a breast cancer patient.”
“I was very shaken up about getting diagnosed with breast cancer at 74,” said Loline Sammons, who utilized Tuffy multiple times a week for six weeks while undergoing radiation treatment in Montrose. “Tough Enough to Wear Pink did other things for us, too, but the pickup was really crucial.”
Most often, Sammons’ daughter, Michelle Lehmann, drove her mom to the treatments. The 112-mile round trips were made more comfortable because of the new pickup, but there was much more to it. There was peace of mind.
“Working with people who you can turn to when you need help for what you’re going through … you just can’t explain it to anyone else,” Sammons said. “They have been absolutely wonderful. Heidi is an absolute doll, and I can’t tell you what a blessing Tough Enough to Wear Pink is. They raise so much money every year, and it helps so many people.”
She was diagnosed in mid-February and was in surgery on Feb. 28. She continues to have a strong outlook, thanks in large part to a sense of humor that has lasted through so many radiation treatments. It’s an enduring spirit that is so vital to the oftentimes overwhelming battle with breast cancer.
“My grandson who is going to college down in Texas called someone at Tough Enough to Wear Pink that got the process started for me,” she said. “I’m so thankful that he did.”
Stephanie Shrieves is also thankful for Tough Enough to Wear Pink and Tuffy. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in May 2016, a few months before the pickup was purchased. Still, she’s found use for it.
“I had my surgeries at Rose Medical Center in Denver,” Shrieves said. “I’ve had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
“The truck has been so awesome for us. We’ve used it to go back and forth to Denver to make all my appointments. I had three surgeries, and after each surgery, I was allowed to come back to Gunnison, but I had to go back once a week for regular appointments.”
Having a brand-new pickup helps make that 400-mile round trip over multiple mountain passes that much easier.
“There were no real worries about whether I’d break down,” she said. “It gives people options to have whatever treatment they choose to do. Living in Gunnison right now, we don’t have a lot of those options. The pickup also gives a little piece of mind knowing there is a good, sound vehicle to get you to your appointments and treatments.”
But the local Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign did so much more for Shrieves and her family.
“There are integrative therapies available, where people can get massages and other things,” she said. “I think having the truck is one less thing to stress about. Tough Enough to Wear Pink was able to give to me and my family during my first surgery, and that was huge. That took a lot of the stress away. It allows you to focus on the treatments and getting better instead of how you’re going to take care of expenses and other things.
“All the people who are involved in Tough Enough to Wear Pink are very passionate about the program, making it successful and taking care of patients who are going through different treatments of cancer. It’s nice to have people fighting in my corner.”