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Cowgirls for a Cure: How a cancer survivor is saddling up to help others

CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. -- Giddy up! The wild, wild west comes east. One rodeo far from Texas sits in the middle of Doswell. Riders of all ages are galloping to show who is best.

"It is pretty amazing the bond you can have with a horse and never really exchange words with them,” said Candice Parsley.

Candice would like nothing more than to be competing. But she is sidelined for a very good reason. The expecting mom, who has been lassoing since she was knee high to a pony, is due in August.

Candice Parsley

"My dad made me rope the dummy 100 times a day,” said Candice.

This is not the first time the New Kent woman was forced out of the saddle.

"He said no horses for a little while,” said Candice.

Seven years ago, the then senior at Longwood University received a devastating diagnosis.

"When they said lymphoma, I didn't even realize cancer,” said Candice.

Candice Parsley

She had a soft-ball sized tumor in her chest. Her father Charlie Barefoot says the sickness rocked the family.

"I remember sitting in the car that night. And just praying,” said Barefoot. "That he would bring the disease on me to bring it off her."

But his tough rider daughter promised to wrangle her disease, but her ‘can do’ attitude was a must.

"I've done a lot of things that are more dangerous than cancer,” said Candice. "I had a rule that there was no crying in the hospital room. I had to kick my mother out a few times because she couldn't hold it together."

After months of chemo and radiation, Candice stared down her sickness.

"I was told May 2, 2012 that I was in remission,” said Candice proudly.

Candice Parsley

"That is the way we deal with it. We tough up. We call it cowboy up. Of course, she likes to call it cowgirl up,” said Barefoot.

Candice is vowing to help others through Cowgirls for a Cure. The non-profit is the brainchild of Candice and friend Brandi Slaughter.

"We don't go down without a fight,” said Brandi. “We’re pretty darn tough."

The two-year-old non-profit rounds up money for breast cancer research and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

"We're going to ride this Cowgirls for a Cure as long as they can ride it,” said Brandi.

Candice rounds up money through her annual rodeo.

Aunt Debbie Haislip says Candice inspires inside and outside the arena.

"This is like family. When Candice came down with lymphoma the hospital room was full of these people,” said Debbie. "Real tough. These cowgirls, you can't beat them."

Now cancer free, Candice wants patients to know they're not riding alone. Especially when there's a posse of cowgirls behind you.

"We want to make this bigger and better every single year and touch as many people as possible,” said Candice.

Cowgirls for a Cure two-day rodeo raised a few thousand dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Riding is truly a family affair for Candice.

Her mother, father, brother and husband all took turns roping cattle during the rodeo.

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