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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tough Enough To Wear PINK

Often the young eyes see things that appear tragic as the end of the world while the older set of eyes realizes all great things eventually come to an end. However it may be Breast Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Tragic yes and we can all help.

October is NATIONAL BREAST CANCER Awareness Month. A month where real men will be found wearing pink, the displaying of pink ribbons and our support to a cause that is of utmost importance. I would like to share my experience and why not the history about the Tough Enough to wear PINK campaign. I'm surely no expert about Breast Cancer. Although like many folks, sooner or later, someone we know and often love dearly is diagnosis with breast cancer.

A wonderful woman at 72 years of age had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was shocking news for her to bare. On her way home from the visit with the Doctor many thoughts entered her mind. “How am I to bring this news home to my husband” she thought. Is this it? Is life over? How do I share this with my five grown children? My fifteen grandchildren? Her mind was over whelm as this was nothing she ever expected to have to think about and surely desired not to be feeling so bewilder.

The time did come when she shared that she had breast cancer. First she shared the news with her husband. The next day she conveyed with her daughter by phone. She was living in San Antonio, Texas and her daughter lived north of her in Austin, Texas. That afternoon, her daughter Jeri drove in to spend the evening with Me-Ma. The next day, one by one she called her sons. Each child bared different emotions. Each one had different concerns, worries and each with different questions to ask "Why". "Why Me-Ma", as she was called by her grandchildren. Although none of the questions about the illness mattered as much as the treatment and what next.

As she went through treatments one of her son’s asked, “Mom, how are you feeling” She reminded him that she felt just fine. She wasn't going to share her pain or personal concerns with him nor show her fears or release giving up hope. Days and weeks went by. Then as months past we witness treatment with that big question that still remain. Then the years went past and the questions seem to fade. Soon the decade past with many more years that followed. During this time she lived life fully.

At age 81 her husband passed away from natural causes. They had been married for 56 years. At 84, Me-Ma experienced her first white Christmas while visiting one of her son's who lived in Corpus Christi, Texas. Me-Ma had lived in northern states including North Dakota where her husband was from but some how missed being there for Christmas and while snow was nothing new to her, having it on Christmas day was a miracle. The south Texas snow of 2004 flourished several inches on the ground which had not been seen there for 104 years prior. She even helped build a snowman with her son and her grandchild Austin. “Me-ma, help me make a snow angel” Austin asked. The two laid on the snow, flapped the arms leaving the impression of angel wings and laughed as they enjoyed Christmas day.

The following August, Me-Ma had a huge 85th surprise birthday party. Every child, grandchild and even great grand children of Me-Ma shared her day as the family enjoyed eating Mexican food at Me-ma’s favorite San Antonio restaurant. The Mariachi’s played music to her. They sung songs that gave her a big smile and even a few blushing moments.

The following October, Me-ma passed on. Although, she had survived Breast Cancer and her life had been blessed in many ways. She lived to see weddings, births and many precious moments making each day meaningful.

So while I am not an expert on breast Cancer, Me-ma was my mother. The woman who gave birth to my life, nursed me from her breast, read stories to me as a child, mended clothes and bandaged my scrapes. I never grew to old to hug her nor give her a kiss on the cheek or say "I love you, Mom." So, I do suppose I can understand the feelings, the questions and the need to educate ourselves about Breast Cancer.

We often seem to become uncomfortable discussing a woman’s breast. The unequivocal body part often seems to unseat embarrassment as if vulgar, ashamed and most certainly uncomfortable though these very breast nourish us through our child birth. They are sculpted from marble into magnificent statues, brushed upon canvas which hangs through our museums. Even hung above the saloon bars of the Wild West and written through words of Shakespearian books which reveal the act of love caressed and still most become so unrest….to speak that of a woman’s breast.

History of the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” campaign:

During that same year of the miracle snow of South Texas in 2004, Terry Wheatley was looking forward to attending the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas as she had for many years. Her son Wade Wheatley was a consistent WNFR finalist in team roping (header) and her husband Jim had been a six-time WNFR team roping qualifier himself. Terry was a senior executive at a major wine company sponsoring the WNFR telecast. But Terry had recently undergone breast cancer surgery and, although things looked positive, it was on her mind. She had lost her grandmother to breast cancer, her mother had a double mastectomy before the age of 40 and her daughter Katie had undergone two surgical biopsies before the age of 20. What’s more, Karl Stressman, Director of Special Events for Wrangler at the time and her close business associate, was dealing with its devastating impact, as his wife Val had struggled with the disease.
“It seemed as if everyone I knew was affected” recalls Terry. “I felt a very strong need to somehow take action.”

Terry realized from her own situation that early diagnosis and treatment was the key to a successful outcome. She toyed with some ideas to rally the rodeo and western community to get that message across. And then the big one hit. What if, on one night of rodeo’s greatest spectacle, the competitors could be convinced to wear pink shirts? Not a color normally associated with rugged events such as bull riding and steer wrestling, but that was the point. That was how to make a statement. Broadcast on national television, no less. All she had to do was make it happen. In three weeks.

Rodeo World to the Rescue:

Finding pink cowboy shirts proved to be the next challenge. Enter Karl Stressman and Wrangler who just happened to have pink shirts in production for the spring, 2005 line. Problem was they weren’t scheduled to be delivered until the New Year. With a few strategically placed phone calls, Karl arranged a special rush production of 200 shirts to be air-freighted directly to Las Vegas just in time for the rodeo.

Terry needed to get the challenge out to the cowboys – and fast. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) jumped in to help, disseminating information about the pink shirt campaign to the finalists. Son Wade his part too, spreading the world to his fellow cowboys and cowgirls.

“I gladly accepted the challenge in support of my mom, but I sure couldn’t predict what the others would do. After all, it was a pink shirt” explained Wade. And he might very well have been the only cowboy wearing one that night. Wade wasn’t sure – nobody was – if the world’s toughest cowboys would rally to the cause. Would they be Tough Enough to Wear Pink?

That question was answered once and for all as the competitors and spectators turned the Thomas & Mack Arena into a sea of pink that night. To the thrill of Terry, Karl and everybody who helped make it happen, one after another pink-shirted cowboys and cowgirls galloped into the arena sporting the color of breast cancer awareness. The campaign received plenty of media attention, spreading the word even further.

Bigger and Better:

By 2008, hundreds of western and extreme sports events across America and Canada have supported some form of Tough Enough to Wear Pink and other breast cancer fundraising and awareness promotions. Wrangler is now the campaign’s title sponsor. Additional partner support comes from Purple Cowboy Wines, Montana Silversmiths, Cowgirl Sisterhood, the PRCA, Las Vegas Events, Resistol Hats, Simba Guitars and others in the western industry.

A percentage of net profits from TETWP endorsed products supports breast cancer charities. The national TETWP campaign “charity of choice” is Breast Cancer Research Foundation –
Now retired from her corporate wine position, Terry has launched her own wine company with long-time business partners and friends. One of the wines created – Purple Cowboy – supports the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign and is available in stores across America.

Terry’s daughter Katie and Wade’s wife Lacey are responsible for the day-to-day management of the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign as well as manage their family’s western boutique in their hometown of Hughson, California. It’s Tough Enough to Wear Pink central, as the Wheatley women coordinate the efforts of the efforts of the western industry partners to support individual rodeo committees, western and extreme sporting events.

That December immediately following the TETWP night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo the following statement was issued to the press: “The western community shows its heart by wearing pink!” The Tough Enough To Wear Pink™ Campaign to raise money and awareness for breast cancer tops $5 million dollar mark in donations.

The National Cancer Institute and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that women in their forties and older have mammograms every one to two years. A complete early detection plan also includes regular clinical breast examinations by a trained medical professional. Monthly breast self-exams are suggested in addition.

So why wear PINK?    Most people associate pink with babies, little girls, and feminine energies. But more than feeling feminine, wearing pink conveys compassion and an open heart. When people are wearing pink, whether they are male or female, they appear approachable and capable of loving others. If you want to feel heart-connected reach for that pastel pink sweater or that pink oxford shirt from your closet to wear. And if wearing pink is not your thing, perhaps wearing the Pink Ribbon may do.
TOUGH ENOUGH TO WEAR PINK: It's not about feeling pretty. It's about educating through wareness. Man enough to talk about it. Learn from it and contribute. Contact the National Breast Cancer Foundation and see how you can help or view the Tough Enough to Wear PINK web site as I will show my support to help educated this cause proudly. Wearing PINK is for my lovely wife, my beautiful daughter, my wonderful sister and the many woman (Mother in law, Sister in Law, niece, friends) who make my life a bit more grand. 

Story by Roger Edison
History credited to Tough Enough to Wear Pink web site


  1. I am a 3 year survivor and my mom is a 16 year survivor!

    Jacki Evenson

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I would like to invite you to join our blog.
    We are a chapter of I.D.O.S. in SO. Oregon. I am Ron Clanton
    The Outlaw Gourmet
    A 25 year member of I.D.O.S.
    Thank You Ron