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Clark cowgirl riding high despite cancer bout

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In this Dec. 10, 2010 photo shows Beau Badura, of Clark, Wyo., Badura  was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 29, but that has not stopped the barrel-racing cowgirl from living a full life with tenacity and courage.

In this Dec. 10, 2010 photo shows Beau Badura, of Clark, Wyo., Badura was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 29, but that has not stopped the barrel-racing cowgirl from living a full life with tenacity and courage.

Powell Tribune, Gib Mathers, Associated Press

POWELL, Wyo. — Though diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29 in 2002, there is no quit in Beau Badura. The Clark cowgirl faces her disease head-on with grit and a grin.

Now Badura's cancer is in remission, but she is by no means out of the woods.

"Even when they say you're in remission," Badura said, "it doesn't mean you're cured."

Badura smiles often and maintains an optimistic outlook.

"I never want to be remembered as the girl that died of cancer. I want to be remembered as the girl that went down smiling, riding her horses."

Indeed, Badura is a member of Chaps and Chapeaus, a women's riding group that stands out at parades in 19th century garb.

Nicole Michaels, co-administrator for Chaps and Chapeaus, described Badura as a "very plucky gal who also barrel races and ranches for a living."

Badura also is a member of You are a Barrel Racing Champion (YBRC), similar to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

The cancer is in remission, but it hasn't relinquished it's hold on Badura.

Her cancer was diagnosed as HER2+ (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2), the nastiest breast cancer gene, she said.

"They didn't know if I was going to come back from it," she said. "It was pretty aggressive."

She was treated at the Mayo Clinic and Billings, Powell and Cody hospitals. She endured one year of chemotherapy and radiation treatment plus 16 surgeries in four years to rid her body of cancer cells that insidiously kept emerging.

"The scars are battle wounds," Badura said. "They're my Purple Hearts."

Since her right side was subjected to radiation treatment, it now feels like her ribs are permanently broken, she said.

Chemotherapy causes patients to lose skin pigmentation and all body hair, Badura said.

Some folks act as though cancer is contagious, she said. When the chemo claimed her hair, she feared the wind would snatch her hat and thus frighten children.

Badura met her husband, Mark, a fourth generation rancher, while she was battling her disease.

Doctors said she couldn't bear children, but she had two: Logun, 3, and Reigan, 5.

"There's days when I wake up and I'm in so much pain," Badura said. "Oh my gosh, I can't do it."

Then Mark steps in. "'Come on,'" Mark exhorts, "'you can do it!'"

"He knows what I need," Badura said.

Like a bronco-busting wrangler being thrown from the saddle, she plants her feet in the stirrups and climbs back on.

When Badura was sick from chemo and radiation, she still climbed into the saddle, even if it required strapping her in.

"Once I'm up there, I'm good. I just need that support system," Badura said.

Fetching a stool to lift her into the saddle or hoisting her onboard is sort of emblematic of her support.

Her husband, children, horses, God, Chaps and Chapeaus — those are Badura's boosters, plus many other good people, she said.

The Chaps and Chapeaus ladies are true-blue friends.

"They're just great people," Badura said. "It's a hoot. I love it."

Like successful barrel racers everywhere, Badura is one with her horse.

Badura and her horses wear pink — the symbol for breast cancer — with pride. She sewed a bright pink Christmas horse blanket, complete with ribbons and other adornment. It captures the eye, making it unlikely observers will miss the fact that Badura is facing her cancer tenaciously.

Adorned with her pink blanket atop her horse, Badura joined her Chaps and Chapeaus colleagues in the Cody Christmas Parade Nov. 27.

Back at the ranch, Badura eased into the saddle with the aid of a stool. Her horse, Buddy, stepped about nervously, eager to race across the snow-covered pasture.

A squall had dumped a fresh two inches of snow, but the storm passed, and the ranch and valley sparkled under its fresh mantle of snow in the bright sunlight.

Badura hopes to reach her goal of seeing her boys graduate from high school, and perhaps more.

"It makes you think, how do I want to help others? How can I be remembered?" Badura said.

Badura's advice to one late-night caller with cancer is her axiom: "Don't give up."

Information from: Powell Tribune - Powell, http://www.powelltribune.com