Riding Out Cancer

Candice Parsley and her husband, Joseph.

As a senior at Longwood University, Candice Parsley was looking forward to graduating, and her upcoming student teaching placement.

In November 2011, her world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Before the diagnosis, she had noticed that her face would become swollen at times, and, overall, she did not feel like herself. Three different doctors told her that she was having an allergic reaction, but her symptoms persisted.

One weekend, when she was traveling with her mother to North Carolina for an all-female rodeo competition, her symptoms became much worse. Her face, neck, and upper body were so swollen that individuals who had known her for her entire life did not recognize her and had no idea who she was.

She and her mother went to a local hospital, and, after many tests, she was admitted to the ICU. A softball-size mass was blocking her airway, making it difficult for her to breathe.

Two days after receiving a cancer diagnosis, she started chemotherapy treatment. The chemotherapy proved to be very successful; after three treatments, her tumor had shrunk to the size of a golf ball. Because of this, her doctors switched her from three more weeks of chemotherapy to 20 days of radiation. However, to Candice, the radiation treatment was worse than the chemotherapy treatment.

“While the chemo drained my energy and made my hair fall out, the radiation burned my neck and throat and made it impossible to eat solid foods,” she said. Her last day of treatment was March 14, 2012. On May 2, 2012, she was told that she was in complete remission.

One of the biggest challenges during her treatment was that she was not able to ride her horse. Her doctor told her to limit her contact with animals, and, additionally, since the mass was wrapped around her veins, a fall would put her at risk.

She could not wait to get back to riding. Once her treatment was over, she got back in the saddle to do what she loves, and spend time with her horse. In fact, two years after she finished her treatment, Candice competed in the same all-female rodeo that she was on her way to when she was diagnosed. Not only did she compete, but she won a saddle for being the high-point team roper.

As she celebrated two wins – in the competition and fighting cancer – she knew she wanted to do more for others. In 2015 she started the nonprofit Cowgirls for a Cause. This year they were able to raise $6,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Candice believes that the reason many survivors are still here today is because of organizations and events such as Light The Night that raise funds to advance cancer research.

“Not only do they share stories of success and hope, but they give means to a way for improving treatment and for finding a cure,” Candice said about the support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society provides. Not many people could have as positive an attitude as Candice did while fighting her battle, but she came out even stronger in the end. This month she will finish a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is expecting her first child with her husband, Joseph.

Come out and support survivors like Candice Parsley at the Light The Night event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Oct. 13, at the Innsbrook North Shore Commons lawn.

This feature is one in a series about the Richmond Region’s nonprofit organizations and their contributions to our communities.

It is brought to you by the featured organization in collaboration with the sponsoring advertiser on this page.