Proud Texas native, Carley Rutledge brought to Colorado with her the discernment to not only impact a community but to create one that would unite and connect people who deal with trauma and find themselves needing an outlet that allows them to feel comparable. Having unknowingly influenced the way her viewers and listeners cope with life challenges, Carley began to tell her story of how she has battled, overcome and then experienced relapsed cancer.
Big time fans of the TV show, Friday Night Lights, Carley and her best friend, Monica Moser started TX Forever—a podcast that reviewed episodes of the famous, early 2000s teen drama. Realizing herself, her ability to be able to relate to one of the characters on the show: Jason Street, she began to see the parallels between her experience of having to learn to re-walk due to her having Ewing Sarcoma and it returning only to affect her spine and Jason’s being paralyzed from the waist down due to a football injury.
“I don’t think Monica and I expected for our show to intertwine with what I was going through and what was happening on the show,” says Carley. “We knew there would be parallels to talk about, especially with that small Texas high school environment. We knew that there would be opportunities to weave in our own stories but what we did not expect was for me to relapse—which created an unexpected opportunity for Monica and me to process what we didn’t get to in high school.”
Having once been a survivor, both Carley and Monica figured they could move on, happily and unbothered by what Carley went through during their young adult years. They figured since the cancer was no longer a factor that they didn’t have to talk about it or think about it. However, suppressing their emotions only lasted temporarily. Now at 25 and having relapsed in September of 2021, Carley has been propelled to talk through her relapse and what she has been going through physically and emotionally.
“This podcast has been an opportunity for me to hear Monica’s perspective—which is a side of the story that I have never heard before,” says Carley. “This has also been a beautiful opportunity for me to spend two hours every week with my best friend, no matter what.”
Reminiscing on the inception of her relapse, she recalled her isolation due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“There were times during my treatment when this podcast was the most important part of my week. It was the most fun two hours of my week. It was really dark times and TX Forever was such an unexpected blessing to have.”
While TX Forever may have been a way for her to talk through her experience with Ewing Sarcoma—and what some may call a coping method, Carley and Monica’s podcast offers an emotional resource to people who may feel that they are alone in their battle and need to hear and see that other people are going through similar tribulations. For those looking for a sense of community and outreach, TX Forever has become a place for people to connect and network with like-minded individuals and individuals with comparable experiences.
Using her platform with one other goal in mind, Carley aims to educate listeners about Ewing Sarcoma and other young adult cancer(s).
“Young adult cancer is a pressing issue but has never really gotten the same attention or funding that other types of cancer(s) may have. It’s not as sexy and not as cool to be in your 20s and have cancer,” proclaims Carley. “We’ve just seemed to have fallen through the cracks. There’s not a lot of treatment options or a lot of research going on, and that is something I am actively trying to change.”
In addition to raising awareness through TX Forever, she also hopes to bring light to The Rutledge Cancer Foundation, founded and owned by Carley's mother. Their family-run foundation focuses prevalently on young adult cancer research and strives to bring less toxic, life-saving therapies to cancer patients.
While Carley is incessantly adjusting to her experience with cancer, she is not letting it discourage or stop her from falling short of the footsteps of her family—finding the resources and tools to help others battle their trauma. Whether it is through a podcast, through a cancer research foundation, or a conversation about one of her favorite TV shows, she is sparking conversation—sparking a community.