Back in the Fall my trainer asked me if I would be interested in doing a horse show down in Florida. At that time I was enrolled in a clinical trial in Boston and had no idea where I would be in March. However, in true fashion I told her to count me in, come hell or high water. I always dreamed of taking Joe to Florida to show. I wasn’t sure what my schedule would be like but she said, as we get closer we will figure everything out. I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity that combined going to Florida and being able to show Joe.
Fast-forward a couple months and as you know the clinical trial in Boston didn’t work and I had to go back to traditional chemo. Luckily I was able to do my chemo at home at our local hospital. This allowed me to stay with my local doctors and do any follow-ups close to home. My chemo schedule entailed doing my 24-hour infusion on a Monday into a Tuesday and then getting the rest of the week and the two following weeks off. In other words, my schedule was 1 week on and 2 weeks off. I did four rounds of chemo and then got a break. The first two rounds knocked me flat on my ass but by the third and fourth round I had a better idea of what to expect and how to counteract everything.
When I started this new chemo I told my medical team from the get go that my goal was to be able to go to this horse show in Florida for 2 weeks. I wanted to finish up my chemo by the end of January in order to give myself the whole month of February to rest and recharge in anticipation of the horse show. Thankfully I am paired up with a team of doctors who understand that I want to have a life outside of the cancer world.
To say I was excited is an understatement. I was like a kid in a candy shop. In order to keep Joe in shape my trainer made sure people rode him while I was in clinic or getting chemo. The weeks I felt good I made sure to go out and ride. There were days I’d be at the barn in freezing cold weather thinking, "what the hell am I doing here?" I would lesson when I felt up to it so I could practice jumping and prepare myself for the show. Joe was more than ready because he knows what he is doing. It's usually me who gets in the way of just letting him do his thing. I overthink everything.
Two weeks before we had planned to head to Florida I started feeling run down. I noticed that each day after I rode, my body was exhausted. Everything started hurting and I could barely get off the couch. Unfortunately with chemo it eventually all builds up. As you get further into treatment your body gets more and more tired. After going to clinic to get checked out I was advised to lay low for the weekend and do absolutely nothing. I was really worried that this was it and there was no way I would be able to handle going to Florida and being at a show for two weeks.
I spent the weekend on the couch resting and doing nothing. As frustrating as it sometimes can be, my body was telling me that I needed to rest and recharge. I sometimes forget that I have cancer. I'll be going along doing a bunch of different things, running here and there, and then all of a sudden it hits me square in the face. I start not feeling well and ignoring what my body is trying to tell me. For example, when I start getting sore all over I know it's because my body is tired and needs to rest. There is a fine line between pushing yourself and getting things accomplished, or taking a step back and resting.
The week before we left was spent getting in all my appointments and all the last minute things you have to do before you go away. Once I got Joe all set and squared away I was able to focus on what I needed to get done in order to go away. I made sure to make a medical ID card, which lists all my medications, as well as make sure I had enough of each medicine to take with me. My mom and I took my dogs to the kennel and made sure they had everything they needed. I had several people comment to me on the fact that they couldn’t believe I was leaving my puppy at a kennel. I quickly set them straight by saying that he was going back to the breeder where we bought him and he would be well taken care of. When I was leaving Raylan I said to him, “I love you very much but Joe came first and I always promised I’d take him back to Florida one day.”
I wasn’t nervous about being at the show or riding in it. I was more worried about getting there and what would happen if I got sick or started feeling horrible. I quickly realized that I was living my life paralyzed by fear. I can’t live my life worrying about managing side effects or by what may or may not happen. The minute I do that I am allowing my cancer to rule my life. Yea it sucks and I deal with it on a daily basis but I can’t let it dictate what I can and cannot do. The past couple years I have been figuring a lot of things out and going with the flow. I can’t afford to plan too far in advance because I have no idea how I am going to feel. However, what I can do is take my situation and make it work in my favor rather than making people feel sorry for me. I have also learned that when I start not feeling well I need to tell the people I am with and listen to my body.
What I was most excited about for Florida is getting a break from my reality. Two weeks away from countless appointments, needle pricks, hospitals, etc. I can finally feel like a normal 25, almost 26, year old. I absolutely love going away to horse shows for the fact that no one knows my story. They have no idea what baggage I left back at the barn when I saddle up Joe and walk into the show ring. The judge has no idea I am currently undergoing treatment. Plus I have chosen to surround myself with a supportive group of people. I wouldn’t be able to do anything if I didn’t have my mom and sister with me. Plus my barn family is pretty awesome and everyone is always watching out for each other. We support each other both inside and outside of the ring. I have no idea what the path ahead has for me or what could happen in the upcoming weeks. What I do know is that I am in Florida with Joe and I couldn’t be happier about it.