Tuffy sends powerful message

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Breast cancer patients find comfort, peace of mind in utilizing transportation pickup from the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink

GUNNISON, Colo. – No matter where it happened, the meeting was cold and uncomfortable. Fear gripped the chests of those involved – doctor, patient, loved ones.

But the words were devastating.

Breast cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2017, my world was effectively shattered,” Laurene Farley wrote in Gunnison Country Magazine.

She’s not alone. Millions have experienced that same message, those same feelings. They have undergone countless treatments, multiple surgeries and experienced those moments when despair can be overwhelming. But there are support systems that help, and that’s one of the benefits of the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink program.

Through its efforts over the last 13 years, more than $2 million has been used to raise needed equipment and assist those families that are battling breast cancer. TETWP and the Gunnison Valley Hospital have forged a collaboration that continues to help local patients with their needs, but it goes well beyond that.

There are care programs in place, and the TETWP board has purchased two patient transport vehicles – “Tuffy” is a 2016 RAM 1500 that has been used to get breast cancer patients to necessary treatments away from their home hospital, and “Bucky” is a new Dodge Durango that will be open to other cancer patients in the Gunnison Valley for similar reasons.

Both are available to help relieve some of the burden that comes with battling cancer.

“We have two vehicles, but they weren’t as comfortable or as good in the winter weather,” said Farley, who made multiple trips to Denver for treatments, surgery and appointments. “It was nice knowing we didn’t have to worry about the weather and could just focus on what we needed to do.”

That is the foundation behind the transportation vehicles. There are enough worries for families battling cancer, so the TETWP board wanted to alleviate that. Whether it’s the patient, a family member or a volunteer driving, the purpose remains the same.

“I took a patient to Delta, where they were testing to confirm it was breast cancer,” said Karen Redden, who has offered her driving services for patients with that need. “The best part was getting to know the woman that I drove.

“She was an amazing woman. I learned so much about her, how funny she was, things I never would have had the opportunity to have without that discussion with her.”

Redden operates a real estate business out of her home. Realizing she had some flexibility, she threw her hat into the ring. It’s not the first time she has been part of Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink.

“When we started the whole fundraising process for TETWP, I volunteered on the original board and helped establish some of the fundraising stuff we still do,” she said. “My daughters have both been Cattlemen’s Days royalty for the rodeo. They also actively participate in fundraisers. We, as a family, are big supporters. It’s important to my daughters to see how you can give back to your community.”

Community is the key. The Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign has utilized all money it has raised on caring for needs of local breast cancer patients.

“The truck was peace of mind if we got on a bad road during our trips,” said Judy Buffington Sammons, who utilized Tuffy during several trips to Montrose this past January. “We knew we’d have a reliable vehicle, so it helped us a lot.”

The stories from those that have benefitted from the pickup help shed a bright light on those dreary days of diagnoses and treatments, doctors’ visits and long drives over mountain passes that come with it. The brightly colored, wrapped RAM 1500 is easily identified, and it sends a clear message to all who see it: No one is alone in their fight against breast cancer.

“Each time that my husband took me to Denver in Tuffy, just riding in the truck gave me food for thought,” Farley wrote. “People who saw us parking somewhere with the truck would give me a friendly thumb’s up or cheer; hospital valets asked about the truck each week; my doctors were so excited to hear of such a wonderful gift.

“All of these experiences brought me to fully understand the ‘pink thing.’ It has brought me incredible strength, understanding and fortitude.”

Those are all things needed in a fight for one’s life, and Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink is in the corner of every patient that needs it.


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