Cancer survivor gears up for Cowgirls for a Cure

More than 100 riders compete Saturday to raise money for the Edith Sanford Breast Center.

By: Kay Todd .

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To Dani Schilla, normal isn’t something to take for granted.

After surviving breast cancer at just 34, normal means living the simple life on her family’s farm near Makoti, North Dakota, spending time with her husband and two young children and saddling up for barrel racing competitions across the state.

Schilla will be one of more than 100 riders competing in Cowgirls for a Cure on Saturday, Sept. 8, in Menoken, North Dakota. The barrel racing event benefits the Edith Sanford Breast Center and brings together Schilla’s passion for the sport and desire to raise awareness for breast cancer.

In May 2014, Schilla was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She had just started training for the barrel racing season, and at the time, her children were just 2 and 5.

“I was just worried about not being here for my children,” Schilla said. “I just wanted to see my kids grow up.”

Over the next six months, Schilla underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. During that time, horseback riding became a source of solace — a reminder of who she was before cancer.

“It always feels good to do something you enjoy and forget about everything else,” Schilla said. “It helped me feel like me again; to not feel like I was sick.”

She also found a great support system, surrounded by family, friends and the barrel racing community.

“This community is like family,” Schilla said. “They’ll do anything they can to help. I can’t imagine not having them around.”

Schilla has been riding horses since she was 9 years old, and just one year after her diagnosis, she was ready to start participating in barrel racing competitions once again.

“It didn’t matter how well I did,” Schilla said. “I just wanted to go and have a good time.”

Now five years cancer-free, Schilla will be in the arena for Cowgirls for a Cure. Her daughter, Kinley, who has been riding horses since she was 3, also plans to compete in the peewee competition.

Every dollar raised will support local patient care at the Edith Sanford Breast Center in Bismarck, North Dakota, and research to end breast cancer.

“A lot more people are affected by this disease than I was ever aware of before,” Schilla said. “That could be my child or grandchild who can use that research.”

Admission is free for spectators. Attendees also will have a chance to learn about the important work happening at Edith Sanford and schedule a mammogram on-site.

If you’re going

  • What: Cowgirls for a Cure
  • When: Saturday, Sept. 8, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Where: Beard Arena, 16030 62nd Ave. S.E., Menoken, North Dakota
  • Details: Each barrel racing contestant in the 4D open or peewee events will have the opportunity to raise money for their entrance fee. Spectators, riders (and horses) are encouraged to wear pink in honor of all the breast cancer survivors in our community.

Posted In Cancer, Foundation, News