Jun 08, 2020 10:00 AM


Tara and Erin Hurst

Give her 19 minutes, and Erin Hurst could run 3.2 miles—the distance of a 5K race. That’s under six minutes per mile. Now, when the time comes to zip up her own jacket, her fingers clasp the zipper slowly before she turns to her mother, Tara, for help. 

“Let me tell you about this girl,” Tara says. “In every race, she’s had the most amazing finish. She’ll be in eighth place and pass all these girls on the last stretch. She’ll kick their butts. And I feel like she’s kind of done that with cancer. She’s run the race and here at the end she’s been amazing.”

It was Erin’s first surgery that led her to name her cancer journey. She woke up in the recovery room and learned that the lump in her hand was in fact cancer. Then her parents walked in. “I just looked at them—and I was probably a little crazy because of all the drugs,” Erin laughs, “and I said, ‘I just can’t wait to be the badass who beats cancer.”

And so “Erin’s Badass Cancer Fight” began. It didn’t take long to catch on. The Hurst family hails from Cleveland, Utah, a town of fewer than one thousand people in rural Emery County. “Someone asked my favorite color,” Erin remembers, “but I didn’t really think about it. And then they were making blue shirts with ‘No One Fights Alone’ on them and my hashtag: #erinsbadasscancerfight. I didn’t even know my cancer stage yet.”

group of women holding a sign that says Erin is a Badass

The shirts were followed by plastic wristbands, sold both in her town and at Dixie State University, where Erin was studying to be an assistant physical therapist. A friend of Tara’s made blue earrings to match the T-shirts. All of the proceeds went to help pay for Erin’s treatment.

But accessories were just the beginning.

“The community had a whole auction,” Erin says. “And someone donated an Alaska cruise.”

“People had meat smokers,” Tara adds. “There was a horse donated at the auction. Baked goods. A family in the community donated all the meat for the auction dinner.”

The Emery County Fair featured another auction for Erin. About halfway through her treatment, an anonymous donor gave Erin, a huge sports fan, a package of tickets to a Utah Jazz NBA game. The seats were courtside. She smiles as she recalls the team’s victory over the Golden State Warriors.

“From the sixth row,” she says, “you could really hear the players. It was awesome.”

three photos of Erin at the Utah Jazz game

“We’re big farm country,” Tara says. “And we had some guys say they wanted to do a roping event for Erin. So they earned money for her that way. They came and presented the check to her.”

Yet Erin’s biggest surprise was the warm welcome back to Cleveland after she finished her chemotherapy—the last in her 40-week treatment.

“Before we drove into town,” Erin remembers, “my dad stopped and said, ‘There are some people who want to greet you.’” Fire engines and police cars were waiting on the edge of town to escort the family.

“There were probably 200 or more people on Main Street,” she says. “And that wasn’t just people from Cleveland. There were people there who have supported me the whole way.”

The cars were lined up and people sat on their tailgates and open trunks six feet apart. The cheering line, Tara explains, extended beyond downtown and nearly to their home a few miles away.

“After I got home, I set up a chair in our driveway,” Erin says. “That was after my big chemo, and usually after that I’m just wiped out, but I was able to sit there and wave at everyone as they honked and drove by.”

Erin waving as cars drive by

Now, at the beginning of the end of her treatment, Erin and her family reflect on how grateful they are for their community’s support.   

“I just want to help other people,” Erin says as her mother nods. “So many people have helped us. I just want to give that back and help others as much as I can. Whatever I could have done before—whatever I could have given—I just want to give more.”

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