It started with a lump—then a series of appointments, and finally a phone call. On a cold, snowy February 3, 2022, I was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer. The next few days passed in a haze brought on by anxiety and a strange sort of grief. My calendar quickly filled with appointments that replaced runs and rides I had scheduled to prepare for the Horse Capital Half-Marathon and Spring Bay Horse Trials in early April.

Time became a surreal concept; my life seemed to stall as I started chemotherapy on February 21. Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to fully process what was happening as chemotherapy and its accompanying nausea, aches, and fatigue began to take control. Despite the side-effects, the anxiety, and the depression, I was determined to continue forward on my terms. I just had to accept that those terms would have to change as I learned to accept and adapt to new limitations.

Not only did I learn to accept help, I learned to ask for it. I learned to listen when others told me to slow down, to rest. And, with the support and love of my parents, my boyfriend, and my extraordinary Lucky Dog Eventing family, I learned how to show myself grace. I never quite got used to being told that I was an inspiration or how strong or brave I was.

At first, I didn’t quite understand because, in my mind, I was just doing what was necessary to survive. But, I slowly began to understand that I wasn’t brave because I was diagnosed with cancer or because I was going through treatment. I was brave because I kept working, I kept riding, I kept moving forward and living. It was a type of bravery that was new to me, one that, admittedly, I never expected to know, but one that I am grateful to have found. Now, I can say with assurance that I am brave, and I owe much of that bravery to my Lucky Dog family.

I may have been in the irons competing this past season, but my barn family made it possible for me to compete. Without their endless encouragement and willingness to help groom, braid, tack up, untack, hand-walk, fill hay nets and water buckets, and countless other gestures of support, I would not have had the strength or energy to ride, let alone compete successfully.

But, after completing the Novice 3-Day at IEA Horse Trials at the beginning of June, I had to tap out. I was too exhausted and weak, my body prone to dizziness and deep body aches. My coach took over the ride on my horse, Obi, for the rest of the summer, even running him in his first Training in July. And our Lucky Dog family showed up in every way. Thanks to them, I have video of nearly the entire cross country course. Returning to the barn after that cross country run, I saw what can only be likened to a NASCAR put crew taking care of my beloved horse, pulling boots, unscrewing studs, hosing him off, and offering him water and peppermints.

I had my last chemotherapy treatment on August 8, one month before the Area VIII Championships where Obi and I were entered to compete in the Novice Championships. Over the course of the month, my energy returned, the nausea subsided, and my hair started to grow. A couple of days before Champs, I found a gift bag in my trailer dressing room, and I laughed and cried when I discovered the pink badass shirt, belt, socks, tumbler, and card signed by my entire barn family. The surprise didn’t stop there, though.

On cross country day, my barn family showed up decked out in bright pink badass gear. They were impossible to miss. Seeing my family gathering at cross country warm-up filled me with such warmth and love that I had to fight back tears. I felt loved. I felt seen. I felt invincible. We left the start box to a chorus of cheers and flew through the finish flags to whoops and hollers, and perhaps some happy tears.

In this sport, they say it takes a village. And it’s true. This sport is hard, brutal, even. Without your village—your family—it’s nearly impossible. My family witnessed my lowest lows this year, but they helped me experience some of my highest highs, too. They are not fair weather; they are there to celebrate the wins and mourn the losses. What one of us experiences, we all experience. No one is in this alone. Without this family of badass individuals, I would not have been so strong or nearly as brave.

For the month of October, we’ll be donating 9.5% of sales from our Boobies are Badass Collection to Horses and Hope, whose mission is to increase breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s signature horse industry workers and their families, many of who are uninsured and underserved.