Meet Tory

2020 Cancer Kickin' Cowgirls

Meet Tory

Self Nomination

I loved horses as a teen but did not ride until I was much older. Following my divorce in 2006, I trained at a therapeutic riding program as a horse handler. I had found my passion!

Then, in 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring surgeries, chemo, and radiation. Because of an adverse drug reaction, I had to avoid risk of infections, which meant no hanging out with horses, barn friends, or our riders.

After treatment, I visited the barn of one of my favorite trainers, Becky. Everyone hugged me, and I immediately thought, “Please don’t touch me!” Becky handed me a lead rope for the horse, Archer. I was terrified! We now smile about my fear, but only because we understand that my reaction was a common side effect as a breast cancer survivor.

We decided to start a breast cancer survivors’ program, with me as the first participant, focusing on grooming, breathing, and stretching, a meditative practice to music (Namaste!). I immediately felt the positive benefits—I began to enjoy being hugged. I became braver. One day, as I was leading Archer, Becky said ”Tory’s back!!” And, I was.

As someone who has seen the positive meditative and physical benefits of being around horses, I would love the opportunity to be with other breast cancer survivors, where we can encourage each other to embrace our inner cowgirls and live my favorite John Wayne quote: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

Nomination from her trainer, Becky

I’ve known Tory for over 10 years and in those years we have taught and volunteered with numerous programs involving Equine Assisted Therapy. I have watched Tory give countless hours to help veterans recovering from brain injuries and PTSD, children and adults with special needs, cancer survivors and at-risk youth. Her dedication to the programs was and is unwavering, even though she’s been through so much herself. She always arrives with a smile and energy which is contagious to us all.

We all missed Tory at the barn as she endured treatment for breast cancer, and when she was able to return things just weren’t the same. She was guarded, unsure, and didn’t have her old smile. As we spent more time at the barn the pieces started coming together. Tory was suffering from PTSD due to her experience with breast cancer. Being the brilliant and talented woman that she is, she began to research her condition and found a program involving equine assisted rehabilitation. This program was developed specifically for breast cancer survivors, and Tory asked me to walk her though the program with my horse. I have a small therapeutic riding program, so my horse was up for the job. Within weeks Tory was regaining her confidence, dropping her guard and learning to breathe again. She has always known the powerful healing of horses, but now she got to experience it for herself.
This retreat would be perfect for Tory, as she has always been a cowgirl and has now experienced Namaste too. She also sees the importance of continuing to focus on her health and wellness even as she once again is giving countless hours to others. I feel she is very deserving of this wonderful experience so she continues to gain strength and confidence AND finally be on the receiving end of giving.