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Lassoing lady: Trailblazing roper excited to show off skills at NILE rodeo

Breast cancer survivor stresses importance of early detection before Pink Night at NILE Rodeo
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Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 12, 2023

BILLINGS — The NILE Rodeo is back in Billings with a new addition for ladies, breakaway roping. It’s empowering both for competitor Sarah Verhelst and breast cancer survivors who will be at MetraPark Friday for Pink Night.

Pryor native Verhelst has been breakaway roping since she was old enough to hold a lasso.

“I think it’s just something that you feel like you were meant to do it, and I’ve just always loved breakaway roping. I could literally rope all day every day,” Verhelst said at MetraPark on Thursday.

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Now Verhelst will get to compete in the sport she loves in a setting that’s near to her heart.

“The NILE’s just always been special. I said I grew up watching my dad compete and never thought breakaway would get to be a part of it,” said Verhelst.

And this year, it’s a family affair.

“My brother calf ropes and my sister breakaway ropes. It’s exciting,” Verhelst said.

It’s something that she’s eager to share with a special group of ladies who will be at the rodeo on Friday. They're breast cancer survivors, including Kari Young of Billings.

“I actually would come here, and I would see the ladies come out and wearing pink and I thought, oh, those women are so strong. And for me, I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so I was like, wow, breast cancer would be really difficult,” Young said.

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Unfortunately, she would learn firsthand. After battling and beating the lymphoma, she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

“The breast cancer for me had more than likely been in my left breast for 8-10 years because I had dense tissue,” said Young.

The same team at St. Vincent Healthcare from a decade ago is helping Young battle once again.

“Eighty percent of women will be able to find their breast cancer through lumps and MRIs. For the other 20%, an ultrasound is what showed it for me,” Young said.

Young was treated with radiation and had to have a double mastectomy. She hopes her story will urge other women to use all early-detection tools available, including ultrasounds.

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“[It was] one extra step that worked for me. And maybe someone can catch it faster,” said Young.

And she said that when it comes to breast cancer, there’s more to the fight than just treatment, like camaraderie.

“I think it’s important that, don’t sit at home and just shove it down. Come out and be with the rest of us and we can all share each other's stories, and it really helps,” Young said.

“I think it’s just really special that they feature women and feature people that are having those struggles or going through things, that research, and detection is really important,” said Verhelst.