Being diagnosed with breast cancer this past May was terrifying. While the dread of the “what ifs” could easily overwhelm me, my support system, including my 11-year-old son, my family, friends, and even my horses, served as pillars of strength. Not to mention, show season was around the corner, keeping me focused on questions like “do I go right or left after X, halt, sault?” rather than the harsh reality of cancer.
The diagnostic process involved multiple professionals who were wonderfully empathetic. Conversations about horses permeated even these stressful encounters—something as simple as my C4 belt sparked discussion. After a series of tests, my OBGYN confirmed the diagnosis of DCIS, a non-invasive type of cancer. I felt relieved but there were more hurdles to overcome, including deciding the type of surgery to opt for.
Accompanied by my husband to remember the details, I met my surgeon. After discussing my diagnosis, I decided on a lumpectomy followed by a month of radiation. However, soon after, it was determined that a second surgery was necessary as the surgeon needed more margins. This second procedure also included the removal of a few lymph nodes to ensure the cancer hadn’t spread. I just want others to know that sometimes one surgery is not enough.
In the midst of all this, my horse Farley developed lameness, adding another layer of stress. However, this provided an opportunity to get my semi-retired 25-year-old horse, Blue, back in action. Surprisingly, Blue and I won a first and a second place, and the Championship for Training Level amateur in his first dressage show in four years. This was a silver lining in all the uncertainty.
As surgery day approached, my neighbors, who share my love for horses, graciously offered to look after my son. The procedure was more painful than expected, but the relief that followed was immeasurable. A subsequent mammogram confirmed the mass was gone, allowing me to focus on healing and upcoming radiation treatments.
The final dressage show was special, as some of my family came to town to witness it. Blue shone again, adding to the joy amid a period of emotional upheaval. A mammogram following the surgery confirmed that the cancerous mass was completely removed, concluding a season marked by health scares but also unexpected triumphs.
My experiences have taught me the true meaning of resilience. I’ve navigated a maze of doctor appointments, balanced a full-time job, and managed my horse show commitments, all while being a mother. The challenges of this season have been a lot, but they’ve also affirmed the essential role that my support network and passion for riding have played in my life. And just like in dressage, sometimes life throws you into muddy grounds; it’s your skill, preparation, and trust in your companions that help you come out winning.