The Wild Bill Hickock Rodeo in Abilene is raising funds to help a family with its cancer costs.
According to rodeo organizers, Wally Peterson didn’t want to stop work that day, even though he’d had some headaches and memory loss.
He was headed out to mow for his and his sons’ mowing service, when his wife Cindy told him something was wrong: as he talked, one side of his face wasn’t moving.
But he dismissed the comment and went out to mow. It took a phone call from Cindy to their sons, Josh and Nick, who finally persuaded Wally to go to the emergency room.
The Abilene man found out he had a brain tumor.
Doctors told him he needed surgery to remove it. He was diagnosed with Primary CNS Lymphoma, with a tumor that had moved his brain one and a half centimeters over, causing pressure and the headaches and memory loss he suffered.
Brain surgery removed most of it, then he underwent six rounds of chemotherapy.
He and Cindy made the 300-mile round trip to and from Kansas University Medical Center for the chemo treatments, and when they were done, doctors transplanted his own bone marrow that had been removed before his chemo started.
After the bone marrow transplant, Wally was in the hospital for two weeks, then the couple spent another two weeks in a rented apartment in Kansas City. Doctors didn’t want him to get too far from the hospital, should he need immediate care.
During his cancer journey, the Petersons got financial help from the Elsie Brooks Memorial Cancer Fund of Dickinson County. Started in 1993 by a gift from Brooks’ estate, the fund provides monies for those in the county undergoing cancer treatment.
Peterson, who retired in January of 2021, had good insurance, but it was the extras that the fund covered: fuel to travel to Kansas City, lodging during the chemo trips, and the rented apartment after the bone marrow transplant.
The money was a godsend, he said. “It meant an awful lot. We didn’t get behind on any bills.” It helped him and Cindy concentrate on him getting better, rather than on finances. “We didn’t have to worry about anything. It took care of expenses.”
At his last appointment, he was cancer free. He’ll have frequent doctor visits for every three to six months, to keep an eye on it, and when he hits the two-year mark for cancer free, his visits will be annually.
He’s back to what he used to do: mowing with his sons, a part-time job as a trash truck driver, and drag racing. He and the boys have drag raced for several years, and he and Cindy see a lot of their five grandkids, ages two months to seven years old.
“Everybody keeps asking me how I’m doing and I tell them I feel normal again,” Wally said. “I’m back to doing what I can do.”
He’s thankful for the help the Elsie Brooks Fund provided. “It really worked out nice. The support was great.”
The Abilene rodeo will host its Tough Enough to Wear Pink night at the rodeo on Fri., August 5, partnering with the Elsie Brooks Fund to raise funds through voluntary donations. The rodeo has worked with the Elsie Brooks fund since 2008 and has raised over $42,000 for the fund.
The Jeffcoat Memorial Foundation will match funds raised at the rodeo, up to $5,000, according to foundation trustee Hank Royer.
The Elsie Brooks Fund has assisted its clients over 1,400 times since it began in 1993.
This year’s Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo takes place in Abilene August 3-6. Performances begin nightly at 7:30 pm.
Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 at the gate. Kids’ tickets are $7. They are on sale at West’s Country Mart, other area retailers, and online at CKFF.net.
For more information, visit the website at WildBillHickokRodeo.com or check out the rodeo on social media (Facebook and Instagram.)