Marcia Sanderson – Macmillan Charity Race – York 2016
We are delighted to be providing the horse for Marcia Sanderson to ride in the Charity Race at York this summer – she is raising funds for Macmillan and her story is an absolute inspiration. If you would like to give a donation after reading Marcia’s story – however small, and every little helps in her quest to raise £3000 – please visit the link below to donate:
On Saturday 11 June 2016, at the age of 47, I will be riding in my last ever horserace!
It’s true that age-wise I’ve got a few years on Sir Anthony McCoy, so it’s high time I quit. But this is a race with a difference, so it’s worth hanging-on for. This race graces the greatest flat racecourse in the British Isles – York – and this race also raises money for Macmillan.
Yes, I’m going out with flourish, on the Knavesmire, at York’s 2016 Charity Raceday, and I’d like to thank both Macmillan and York Racecourse for providing me with the opportunity to end my race-riding career in such a fabulous way. My part of the deal is that I have to raise some cash, for a very worthy cause. And what a worthy cause it is. I know. Unfortunately I’ve been there!
In 2003, as a 34-year old mother of two gorgeous children, one age just 2 and the other still a babe-in-arms, I received the devastating news that I had breast cancer. Months of unpleasant treatment lay ahead, but in my hour of need Macmillan was there for me.
For those who have the time, my story is below. But those who haven’t, please just take a minute to sponsor a fat-bird who’d like to give a bit back to a vital charity organisation; an organisation that is there for so many people, at what is inevitably a time of great anguish and darkness in their lives.
Many thanks for reading this far. Please sponsor me. Any amount is gratefully received and every single penny goes to Macmillan.
Hopefully see you at York Races, Saturday 11
June 2016, if not before!
With very best wishes.
Oh, I should mention this is my first ever horserace too!
The Race of My Life – Marcia Sanderson
Everything stops when they tell you you’ve got cancer.
You’re still in the room; their mouths are moving; but you can’t really hear anything anymore. You can still see your surroundings; but you’re not really there anymore. You’re not alone; but you’ve never felt so alone.
Then adrenaline. Now your heart’s suddenly beating very fast. You come back into your mind. You’re back in the room.
What? Why? How?
It’s funny how your whole life can change in a flash. You see everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve created, and everything you’ve planned, rendered irrelevant in an instant.
And as I sat in the consultant’s room that bleak November evening, an enveloping blackness surrounding me and a rising feeling of utter despair inside me, trying to take in his diagnosis, trying not to scream, York Minster struck 7pm across the way. Seven long, dull notes rang out from the bell tower and so it began, at the age of 34, the Fight of my Life.
As the next few days passed by in a blur of tests and scans, all I could think about was my baby girl and my little boy. My daughter Jemima was just 10 months old and Hugh wasn’t yet 3 years old. What would this mean for them? Oh please God, I had to get through this for them.
Within a matter of days I was on the operating table; a total mastectomy of the left-breast, with several lymph nodes stripped away from beneath my left arm too. More tests followed. The cancer had been detected in one of the nodes, so it was potentially on the march. It was also hormone receptive.
Next my oncologist examined the evidence before him and decided that chemotherapy would be required. Yuk!
Traditional chemotherapeutic agents are cytotoxic, that is to say they act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells. This means that chemotherapy also harms cells that divide rapidly under normal circumstances – for example cells in the bone marrow and hair follicles. This results in the most common side effects of chemotherapy: myelosuppression (decreased production of blood cells) and alopecia(hair loss). So you feel crap. And then your hair falls out. So you look crap!
My chemotherapy regime was to last for six courses and I would need 3 weeks between each course to recover. I vomited after each course of treatment, usually the next morning. But the cocktail of anti-nausea pills I was prescribed were good. They helped a lot.
After each round of chemo it takes the body some time to repair and recover and so before the next treatment they test your blood, to see if you’re up to the next dose. After my first such tests it was concluded that I wasn’t. This was a problem because if you leave it too long between each subsequent round the effect of the overall treatment diminishes.
This meant I needed a boost and so for the next week, and for every week following each subsequent round of chemotherapy, a course of daily injections were prescribed, which my husband James took great delight in administering to me. Needles (sic) to say he enjoyed this
more than I did! (Sorry.)
My hair got thinner (but my bum didn’t)! I tried hard to keep it. I’d already lost a breast and having just one tit and no hair at all really didn’t appeal much at the time. Before each round of chemo the nurse froze my head, to try and preserve the hair follicles, but this was a battle I was losing. One day James decreed that I looked worse with my new comb-over style than I would look without any hair at all and so I handed him my clippers (if you don’t know, I’m a hairdresser) and he cheerfully clipped the remaining hair from my head. That was the first and the last time he’s doing my hair for me!
The boosters began to work their magic, so I resumed the chemo courses and thereafter stuck to the plan. It was a strange period of my life. It was not a particularly happy time, but nor was it a particularly unhappy time. It was just a path that had to be trod before normal service could resume. I felt quite disconnected from the world I had once lived in and looked forward to getting it back. Getting back into a routine that didn’t centre entirely around my own health. Getting back to normal.
But how could I ever be normal again when I had just the one rather sad looking breast? Well there’s a whole industry out there providing fantastic support for people in my situation and I bought new bras and a new swimming costume, with special pockets sewn in to accommodate a breast prosthesis. This made me look normal on the outside, but I still felt there was something missing and I couldn’t wear low cut tops, which I used to enjoy – especially when I combined them with my wonder-bra to attract more attention than I really justified!
I thought about it long and hard and eventually decided to undergo breast reconstruction. Soon I found myself in the capable hands of a renowned Leeds-based plastic surgeon, with a wonderful ‘gallows’ sense of humour. He looked at my sad and rather lonesome right breast and assured me that he could make me a new pair, far better than the original cast. Needless to say James’s interest in this gentleman’s work suddenly increased dramatically and ‘No’, he was told, there is not a catalogue!
They can do amazing things, these plastic surgeons, and I really couldn’t believe the plan that my surgeon outlined. He proposed to create a pouch of skin where my new breast was to be formed; then remove some excess flab from my belly and pack it therein to create the new breast within the new pouch. In conjunction with this he proposed to ‘improve’ the remaining right breast, whilst also removing
the outer section of my remaining areola (outer nipple) in order to fashion a nipple for the new left breast. However, this ‘new’ nipple would first have to be grafted onto my groin area, to keep it alive, until it was time to transfer it to its new base. (No, I am not making any of this up!)
And so, voluntarily this time, I went back under the ‘surgeons knife’ for
three-phases of surgery during the course of 2006. To say it was hard and painful at the time would be a serious understatement. It was tough – particularly the main operation when stomach tissue was moved into the newly formed breast-skin. I have never felt so low and in so much pain in my life. I honestly thought I was going to die in the days following that operation. But I didn’t. Not even close! I repaired and I recovered, as the experts said I would, and to say that I am pleased with the end result, and the life it has empowered me to lead since, would also be a serious understatement.
You don’t undertake that sort of treatment lightly, indeed it took me 2 years to make-up my mind to do it, but the end result for me was life changing, both mentally and physically, so it was worth the pain.
So, now, here I am! It’s 10 years since my treatment and recovery were completed. It’s 2016. I’m still alive. I’m healthy (I hope)! Healthy enough to appreciate my wonderful family and friends; healthy enough to work and run my own hairdressing business; healthy enough to run my house; healthy enough to keep my own horses and dogs; and healthy enough to live my life. And God, am I grateful! I am grateful for the last 10 years. I am grateful for the amazing doctors and nurses who saved my life; and I am grateful for the support of my family, my friends and Macmillan.
You will have heard of Macmillan I expect, but what exactly do they do? Well, in their own words, ‘ Right from the moment you’re diagnosed, through your treatment and beyond, we’re a constant source of support, giving you the energy and inspiration to help you take back control of your life, and feel more like yourself again.’ And that’s what they do. Exactly what it says on the tin! So I am now very grateful to be presented with an opportunity to do something, albeit only small, for them.
Have you ever had a seminal, ‘Eureka’ moment? I had one last June, when reading the Racing Post at home in the kitchen one day and, in particular, the story of Kirstie Hargreaves, her recovery from cancer and how she was raising money for Macmillan by riding in a charity race at York.
I’m going to do that, I thought.
“I’m going to do that,” I said.
I’m going to do that, I decided!
Well, in the words of the song – You Gotta Get Yourself Connected! Luckily I am, in a very small way. Well, what’s the point of having a husband who works in racing if you can’t ride at York Races whenever you fancy it? So that’s the plan!
It sounds simple enough, but needless to say it isn’t. You don’t just rock-up at York, get legged-up on your mount and enjoy a pleasant hack across the Knavesmire. I have ridden and hunted but I have never race-ridden before and so I have small mountain to climb before 11 June 2016 – but I am certainly up for the challenge.
First and foremost I must get fitter. I must work-ride in the mornings. I must watch what I eat. I must learn to ride ‘short’. I must also get fitter. I must learn race-riding techniques. I must learn about the Knavesmire. I must attend Jack Berry House and the Northern Racing College for coaching and assessment. I must source a racehorse and get to know it. I have got to get fitter. I must learn to ride with different equipment and with a racing saddle. I must raise at least £3,000. I must guide my horse down to the Start. I must keep calm. I must line-up properly. I must NOT miss the break. I must fly like the wind. I must win the race. And I must get fitter!
So here’s where you come in. I want you to support me. I need you to
support me. I would like some of your spare money! Not for me
personally of course but for Macmillan. Please, please sponsor me to ride in this race around the Knavesmire on Saturday 11 June 2016, and help me to raise at least £3,000 for a brilliant cause. Every single penny raised goes to Macmillan, so that they can help somebody else, as they once helped me. Everyone has been affected by cancer, directly or indirectly, and the support that Macmillan offers when this awful disease descends upon families and shatters lives is invaluable.
Please sponsor me. Please give an amount you can afford. Skip that meal out this weekend – have (frozen) Pizza-Movie night at home instead (we do all the time, it’s great fun) and donate the money to the cause. Don’t have that big bet – sponsor me instead – you’re on to a winner. If you have had a winner – sponsor another one! Anyway, you get the picture.
And if you want a right good laugh, come racing at York on Saturday 11June and look out for the chubby blonde lady-rider as she walks into the Parade Ring for the last race on the card. The one who’ll be struggling to contain her nerves. The one that was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and commenced the Fight of her Life all those years ago; and the one that is so grateful to be here for the Race of Her Life, at York, in 2016.
I can’t quite believe it.
But that will be me! 🙂
(Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity).
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