Cancer Center raffle winner shares BMW |

Cancer Center raffle winner shares BMW

Tamara Miller

Judy Livingston is the kind of friend a cancer patient needs.

She can remember the exact date her friend, Donna Farmer, was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It was July 13, 1997 – a Friday,” Livingston said.

She helped watch over Farmer’s two boys and supported her friend through the weeks of chemotherapy – and through the fear of reoccurrence that still exists even eight years after.

When the two friends from Eutaw, Ala. came to Vail this month to take Farmer’s sons on a ski vacation, Livingston bought $100 worth of raffle tickets for a fund raiser.

The prize was attractive – a two-year lease on a BMW X-3 sports activity vehicle. But the cause – to build a Caring House for patients and families at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards – is what got her, Livingston says.

“She gave me $100 for two books (of raffle tickets),” said Simone Carlen, who sold Livingston the tickets earlier this week. “Basically she goes, ‘If I win, it’s for my friend.'”

Despite the odds, Livingston did win. When she retrieved the confirmation letter for her prize Friday with Farmer by her side, Livingston handed the letter over to her friend.

“She went through this with grace, poise and dignity like I’ve never seen,” Livingston said.

The cause

Since the Shaw Center opened its doors in Edwards in July 2001, it has served patients from seven counties including Eagle, Summit, Lake, Routt, Garfield, Pitkin and Grand. Realizing the center’s status as a regional facility and that cancer treatment can take six to eight weeks, a desire to provide a place for patients to stay began.

“When we had a rancher from Rifle say he would have to sleep in a car during his treatment, we knew we had to do something,” said Cheryl Jensen, a volunteer for the Shaw Center Outreach group.

Nowadays, Vail Resorts offers vacant employee housing units for those patients who don’t have the means to stay somewhere during treatment. A Caring House would allow patients a place to rest that was near the Shaw Center. Staying with other cancer patients also could provide a sense of support patients can’t find elsewhere, Jensen said.

The Vail Valley Medical Center Volunteer Corps hosted a luncheon this week to raise awareness about the cause. Volunteers have been selling raffle tickets to raise money for the past few weeks, said Andy Searles, president of the volunteer corps.

While the calculations aren’t finished, the fund raiser garnered more than $35,000, Searles said. At $10 a raffle ticket, volunteers estimate that hundreds of people helped the cause in some way.

The Caring House, as proposed, would be located next to the Shaw Center and provide eight to 12 bedrooms for patients receiving treatment. Staying there would be free, though those who could afford it would be encouraged to give donations, Jensen said.

“I think what’s wonderful about this community is that this would be for people who live outside of the area,” she said.

The support

Farmer, a professional artist, was only 29-years-old and a mother of two young boys when she found out she had cancer. Those around her immediately reached out to help, but it was hard to accept.

“When I first found out I had it, I rejected the support,” she said. “Then I tried to reach out for as much support as I could.”

Livingston, who also is the godmother to Farmer’s boys, was there for her throughout the ordeal. “We’ve been friends for 14 years,” Farmer said. “We live next door to each other. She helped with all the chemo treatments.”

A place like the Caring House will help cancer patients get the support they need, she said. “It’s very important,” she said. “Only people who are going through it can understand. You feel like an alien.”

While Farmer and Livingston still have to work out who gets the prize – Farmer appeared reluctant to accept it – the boys are more than a little excited about riding in a new BMW. “We’re going to junk it up,” said Grant Farmer, 11.

Grant later explained that “junk it up” was simply a figure of speech meaning his family would drive the car around a lot.

Livingston believes Farmer deserves the credit for perseverance and strength.

“She would even get dressed up for her chemo appointments,” she said. “She looked liked she was going to the opera.

“I’m proud of her and I’m proud to be her friend,” she said.

Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.

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