INDIANAPOLIS – Carolyn Huffman gasped.
She was already overcome. From the second row of the Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood concert on Saturday, she’d just gripped a microphone and told the crowd of thousands — and her favorite country singers — about overcoming cancer.
Her face reflected on the concert venue’s big screen, she gave a little scream as Brooks leaned toward her with guitar in hand. With her daughter and grandson standing on either side of her, Huffman reached out to accept the instrument from one of the best-selling artists of all time, who said simply, “You are a doll.”
Huffman had looked forward to that concert for two weeks since her family invited her along, but she never thought the experience would become such a personal one — one that would uplift her after so much heartache, including the recent death of her husband, a Greenfield native.
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It was Garth Brook’s first visit in Indianapolis in 21 years. Huffman, 76, who attended the country power couple’s Saturday afternoon concert with her daughter and grandson, stood and danced the entire time, said Jenny Stephenson, her daughter.
They’d started out in the 14th row, which were great seats, Stephenson said. However, Huffman was too short to see well and stood in the aisle for a better view. She was asked to go back to her seat, until staff members at the venue gave the group passes to move up to the fourth row.
Huffman’s dance moves and enthusiasm caught the attention of the singers, but the Indianapolis woman earned their admiration when they learned she was a four-time cancer survivor.
Yearwood was speaking to the crowd between songs and mentioned October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She dedicated a song to cancer patients and survivors, and Stephenson and her son began pointing to Huffman to indicate she was a survivor.
“She said, ‘I have to know your story, you’re a spitfire and you’ve been dancing through this whole thing,'” Stephenson recalled.
Yearwood handed Huffman her bejeweled microphone, and the woman explained she’d had breast cancer, and then seven years later, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which has returned twice more.
Huffman could hardly stand when she realized the singers were going to give her the guitar, she said.
“It was a really special moment for me because in the last year, we’ve had a lot of tragedy,” she said. “It made me feel very good to think that somebody, especially those two, would actually do that for me.”
In February 2016, Huffman’s 24-year-old grandson, Cpl. Scott R. “Scotty” Studebaker, 24, of Fortville, died at Camp Lejune, North Carolina. Just four months later, her husband, Robert E. Huffman, a Greenfield native, died June 28.
That night, she became somewhat of a celebrity at the concert. Photos of the moment flooded social media, and leaving the concert took ages because people wanted to stop, talk to Huffman, give her a hug and even add her to their prayers, Stephenson said.
Yearwood posted a short video featuring Huffman to her Facebook page, which had been viewed some 439,000 times at press time.
“Celebrate with the survivors, and fight with the fighters!” Yearwood wrote. “I love you, Carolyn!”
It meant a lot to Huffman and her family for the singers to ask their audience to pray for them, she said. Huffman is strong, but the last year had taken its toll on her spirits, Stephenson said.
“That moment took away the pain,” she said. “For three hours, she stood and danced. Them giving her the guitar was the icing on the cake.”