Cancer patient, race car driver inspire each other
October 22, 2009
In the middle of Carolyn Gochee’s waiting room, four women embraced.
Sherry Bird hugged Gochee, while two of Bird’s daughters, Kaitlen and Bekah, joined in from the outside.
“I didn’t get the chance to thank you,” Bird said as she pressed her cheek to her friend’s. “But thank you. For everything.”
Gochee donated $550 of her winnings as a race car driver at Hayden Speedway and funds from sales of T-shirts and sponsorships to help Bird, who is battling breast cancer.
She presented Bird with a check Wednesday. Bird said she felt blessed by the support of Gochee and the rest of the community.
“This is what’s keeping us afloat right now,” Bird said, waving the check in her hand. “It’s things like this that are getting us through with all the medical bills and the loss of my income.”
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She was diagnosed in April when doctors found a mass in her breast.
She is undergoing chemotherapy but will receive her last round Oct. 28.
In early November she will begin six weeks of radiation therapy, and will have to remain at the treatment center in Edwards.
“These are all costs you just don’t consider,” Bird said.
She said Gochee approached her at a fundraiser for her family in June and told her about her idea to dedicate her season at Hayden Speedway to the Birds.
“She’s just so supportive,” Bird said. “We have the support of the whole community.”
Gochee said she had been looking for a reason to get back into racing when she learned of Sherry’s struggles in June.
“She was all the inspiration I needed,” Gochee said. “It’s all about girl power and raising awareness.”
Bird, in turn, said she was inspired by the dedication and “girl power” it took to race a Volkswagen bug around a dirt track.
“I really respect and admire what she did out there,” Bird said. “I was lifted by that.”
She said when she attended a race – with her daughters and several other girls on hand cheering – she felt that sense of girl power.
“Walls get broken down among women,” Bird said. “We really unite around each other. There’s a great strength in women who help each other get through things.”
Kaitlen said she was also touched by Gochee’s support.
“I was pretty surprised,” Kaitlen said. “It really blessed me. It blessed our whole family.”
She said she also enjoyed going to some of Gochee’s races, decked out in pink “Lady bug” T-shirts and baseball caps with Gochee’s No. 3 emblazoned on them.
Bekah, 12 said Gochee would have won one of the races she watched if it weren’t for car No. 21, which stalled, causing the race to continue under a yellow flag.
“I think 21 should be out of the race so Gochee can win,” Bekah said. “She was way ahead until 21 broke down.”
To Bird, it was about raising awareness and support among women in the community.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and Bird said it’s important to her to try to help other women get tested regularly and detect breast cancer early.
“I encourage everyone who’s at risk to get tested,” Bird said. “I’ve been getting tested since I was 36, and they still didn’t find it. Anyone who is at risk should get a digital mammogram or an MRI. You have to go that extra mile.”