August 24, 2017
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, N.D., spending time with her husband and two young children and saddling up for barrel racing competitions across the state.
Schilla wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete in Cowgirls for a Cure on Sept. 12 after participating in 2018 and 2019 events. The barrel racing event benefits the Edith Sanford Breast Initiative and brings together Schilla’s passion for the sport and desire to raise awareness for 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.”
Diagnosed at 34
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.”
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To make a donation or find other ways to get involved, visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/edith.