Cowgirls vs. Cancer 2011: Kelly’s story

October is breast cancer awareness month, and we’re now accepting nominations for our 2012 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship program. Cowgirls vs. Cancer is healing with horses and yoga for breast cancer survivors, and next year will be its third. Also this month, I’ll be sharing stories from our four 2011 recipients, about their Cowgirl Yoga experience with us this summer. Here’s Kelly’s story. Yeehaw & Namaste.I’m wearing my pink Athleta cowgirl hat, channeling a ride in the Bridger Mountains as I write this. We’re winding through the pines of a mountain forest, a line of women and horses. The smell of the pine, carried on a soft breeze, is intoxicating. I can feel the warmth of my horse, Dillon, beneath me and the sun above me. I hear the sounds of the leather saddle squeaking and the birds trilling, the laughter and low murmurs of my fellow riders and I am happy, completely happy.I recall turning to Margaret and saying that this moment would become my “happy place”, envisioning it for years to come. She replied, “Just wait, there’s more.” And there was more, so much more. The Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship was a huge blessing in the midst of a challenging time. There is not enough praise or gratitude enough to thank the Cowgirl Yoga team and those who support it. Although my chemotherapy and radiation treatments had ended months before, I still felt like I was holding my breath. Cowgirl Yoga released that breath, and I breathed deeply of calm and confidence. Confidence returned to my body and mind, as I moved from timid and rigid in the saddle to synching with Dillon’s stride (and what a good and patient horse he was with me!), so that I could finish my week with a gentle gallop up Yeehaw Hill. The yoga classes reminded me of how amazing the human body is as I felt its every muscle and nerve, the air through my lungs, the silent place in my mind – and I thanked it for its service . For the first time in over a year, I slept straight through the night, no hours of tossing around, no anxious moments. The days of fantastic food, beautiful weather and amazing women were a balm for my soul. I was especially grateful to be with such a special group of people, yoga lovers, horse lovers, adventure lovers, lovers of laughter, my best friend, Becky, who nominated me and joined me at the retreat, and fellow cancer thriver, Su. I felt at ease, joyful, silly, comforted, relaxed and full. There was no room for worry or what-if’s because I was so completely full…stuffed, in fact, with positive, healthy, happy emotions. That ride up the mountain is still my “happy place”. When I let the busy-ness of life avert my attention from its real purpose and meaning, when I forget how blessed I am to be here, when I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, I close my eyes and breathe in the pine. Yeehaw & Namaste.Photo of Kelly and Dillon by Larry Stanley