Great Bend native Ashley Gorney will celebrate the end of radiation treatment for cancer by making the coin toss Sunday at the Kansas City Chiefs home football game against the New Orleans Saints.
Sunday is NFL Pink Out day, where National Football League teams recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
On Oct. 23, the Chiefs’ annual Breast Cancer Awareness game will be presented by The University of Kansas Hospital. As Coin Toss Captain, she will be recognized pregame.
Ashley is the daughter of Robert and Lora Olivier. She and her husband Jerad Gorney both graduated from Great Bend High School in 1999 and later taught at GBHS. Ashley was active in sports in school and also coached volleyball.
At present the Gorneys are both teachers at Gardner Edgerton High School. She has been teaching Spanish there since 2008. Along with teaching, she’s also been involved in several coaching positions, including volleyball and basketball.
“Outside of school I enjoy photography, reading, watching movies, and most importantly spending time with my family,” Gorney wrote on her staff profile for the school’s website.
She was able to return to teaching before the end of the last school year and started back as a full-time teacher this fall.
A Pink Out at a Gardner Edgerton sporting event last fall may have saved Gorney’s life.
“We were talking about breast cancer and when I got home I did a breast exam and found a lump,” she said. She had learned to do the self-exams as a teenager, but had stopped after have a baby and breast feeding for a couple of years.
It’s good that Pink Outs remind teens to do the exams, she said. “I don’t think you can ever start too young. That’s a good habit to have for the future.”
A year ago, on Oct. 7, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. She has undergone 15 rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. After testing BRCA2 positive, she knew she could pass the gene that increases the risk of breast cancer to the next generation, so she underwent a prophylactic hysterectomy. She also had an auxiliary lymph node dissection in her right armpit.
By the time Gorney tosses that coin at Sunday’s game, she hopes to be officially cancer-free.
“This Friday will be her last radiation treatment,” her father said. Gorney has been undergoing treatment Monday through Friday for six weeks, and with Friday’s treatment she will be done. “It’s been a long year.”
Students and colleagues showed their support for the teacher over the past year. A fundraiser brought in enough money to buy two Healing Chairs, one of which went to her.
Much of the healing after a mastectomy is done at home. The Healing Chair is a nonprofit organization in Kansas City that provides a reclining lift chair to women after the surgery.
“The arms of the recliner provide support for the arms that a bed cannot,” a blog on TheBreastCancer Site.com explains. “The lift chair makes it easier for the user to move from a seated position to a standing one without putting strain on the incision. It also prevents the user from rolling over in her sleep and waking in a painful position.”
Along with the chair comes a journal with entries from past users as well as a blank place for current users to add their own thoughts. When a patient finishes using one, it’s picked up and delivered to another patient.
Gorney was nominated for the honor of Coin Toss Captain by Dr. Ann O’Dea at the University of Kansas Hospital.
“My husband and I are both die-hard Chiefs fans,” she said.
More breast cancer survivors and honorees will participate in various on-field pregame festivities and recognitions during the game, according to NFL.com. The Chiefs Women’s Organization will be stationed outside the Arrowhead Stadium gates engaging fans who have had a loved one or friend touched by breast cancer to participate in the #ChiefsvsCancer selfie card activation.
Zeta Tau Alpha volunteers will distribute “Think Pink” ribbons to fans. Additionally, the team will recognize one honoree who is a breast cancer survivor, caregiver or has furthered the cause of breast cancer awareness. The honoree will sit in a pink seat at Arrowhead Stadium during the game.
Rounding out the game day initiatives, the Hunt Family Foundation will hold a 50/50 raffle and the team will hold a silent auction for items, including a number of game-worn equipment and signed pink merchandise. All proceeds will support The University of Kansas Cancer Center.
The Chiefs and its tight ends will join the University of Kansas Hospital on Oct. 25 to host a Look
Good Feel Better session along with the American Cancer Society for individuals going through cancer treatment.