I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2013 and I’ve opted not to have treatment beyond the Whipple surgery I had in August of that year. Instead, I’m fighting the disease on my own terms and am enjoying each moment of every day — traveling, reading, spending time with friends and doing many of the things I never had time to do until now.

During the 14 years I spent with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders – I was their first-ever director – I often told the girls that, “It’s not what happens to you … it’s what happens through you.”

I’m trying to keep that in mind more than ever before these days.

My career with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders took me on an incredible journey that I never could have envisioned. Getting that job was definitely a game-changer (no pun intended) in my life.

But it hadn’t been my intent; the position hadn’t been on my radar. However, I had made a good impression on Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm during my time as his assistant, and he hadn’t forgotten our very first encounter.

I was interviewing for a job with the Cowboys Football Club in 1975, and Tex asked me where I wanted to be in five years. I replied, “Your chair looks pretty comfortable.”

Tex roared with laughter, reached his hand across his desk to shake mine, and said, “You’re hired!”

The following year, out of the clear blue, he asked me to oversee the cheerleaders in my “spare time” after the 1976 Super Bowl.

I was totally stunned. I didn’t have time to think about what to do, so I just jumped in and got started, and before long, managing the cheerleaders was a full-time job, and I was appointed director. I was only 32, not much older than the cheerleaders. But my age helped in many ways, because I understood where they were coming from. I helped them mature, and they certainly did the same for me.

The circle continues.

After my diagnosis, I was flooded with an outpouring of support — some 500 cards landed in my mailbox, and I received so many flowers after my surgery that the hospital had to start turning them away. I really had no idea how many lives I had touched.

Girls I hadn’t seen in 30 years were coming by to visit, calling. I was overwhelmed by all the love. We’re all connected in this tapestry of life, and when something tragic happens, there’s also a magic that happens that draws us all back together. Now we can all work together once again for the greater good.

Today I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on pancreatic cancer.

And I keep in mind that it’s not what happens to you … it’s what happens through you.

I believe that my diagnosis happened for a reason. My life has been extraordinary, exciting and so outrageous that at times it hasn’t seemed real. If the life I’ve led can be used to create awareness for the disease, wonderful. This is a perfect example of something happening through me.

Truly, could I be more blessed?

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