Dealing with Payne

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Wade Payne is a bull rider and a ranch hand.

He’s also a cancer survivor.

Put everything together, and Payne has an interesting story to tell; the latter is the most provocative, because it’s been a whirlwind experience for the cowboy from Beaver, Okla.

Last spring, Payne was diagnosed with cancer, just about the time when he was supposed to be celebrating his 22nd birthday. It meant surgery and chemotherapy, and it was a scariest time of his life. But Payne fought, his smile piercing through the doubt, his swagger of confidence a banner he carried on the outside as he battled the disease.

“I don’t know if that helped me all that much, but I think my family was helped as much as anything by seeing me that way,” Payne said Saturday night after the second performance of the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla. “They tried to act like it didn’t bother them or that it didn’t scare them – what I was going through – but I could see it.”

The reality is there was plenty of fear for Payne, his family and his friends. For cowboys, it isn’t about being fearless; life is about overcoming fear and doing everything possible to get the job done. That’s Payne’s approach, whether he’s climbing over the chutes and onto an 1,800-pound heap of muscle and flesh or whether he’s watching poison drip into a tube that’s attached his blood lines.

That’s a champion in my books.


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