After Jamie Fell was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in December 2012, she sent her young horses to various trainers in the area, but kept her Small Tour horse close and continued to ride through the winter. As the show season approached, she made the bold move to enter a National Level Competition and did a Prix St. Georges class at Centerline Events at HITS. "I went to the show with nothing to prove, only to show myself that life was “normal” and that I was still capable of being who I am. It's easy to fall into a pool of self-doubt and pity, but to see my clients walk away with blue ribbons, my daughter breeze through the FEI Young Rider Tests and for me to place in the class with other notable professionals after receiving chemotherapy only 3 days prior, proved to me, and hopefully others like me, that life goes on as long as you're willing to fight cancer to the death!"
Jamie catches up with DressageDaily since she first shared her journey with us.
When I received word that I had breast cancer, I had already resigned myself to the fact that I had a long road of recovery ahead of me. Nobody wants to slow down, especially not an equestrian. Our families, horses, friends and clients depend on us much more than we appreciate or understand...until something major happens. I've had fellow equestrians find themselves in similar situations as myself and it's always easy to make assumptions, give advice or turn a blind eye. The fact of the matter is that there is no way you can understand what goes on in someone else's life and the best thing you can do is simply be there for them, offer help, hold their hand and know recovery will complete and everything will be normal again, whatever that normal may be. Throughout my ordeal, my diagnosis was December 28th 2012, I believe I have experienced the full gamut of human emotion. The greatest challenge was dealing with clients and their assumptions about my ability to continue carrying on throughout chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. It takes major trust to believe in someone to care for your equestrian partner in the first place. To know that person is also struggling with cancer and chemotherapy in the coldest, darkest days of winter challenges even the most loyal of clients. I will admit, although I never missed a day, trudged through the snow and bitter cold, people worry more about their horses and thought it in their, and my, best interest to move from my stable. It made times even tougher knowing I had to figure out how to pay the bills, fight through my fatigue and deal with all the emotions of who was behind me versus who forgot about human needs versus their equestrian requirements. All in all, the fight through the winter, battling cancer and coming out stronger than ever are proof positive of the strength, power and brutal grit an equestrian possesses.
What have I learned so far from dealing with my health issues? First and foremost, never give up. Your health comes first and it is up to you to decide how you are to remain fit, strong and active. Everyone told me to sit down and rest. The more I heard that, the more I was determined to get up and fight. Secondly, I never hid from my cancer. The children I teach never left my side. When my hair started to fall out, I was concerned they would be afraid of me. Instead of hiding behind a wig, my mother shaved my hair with my horse clippers and the girls in the barn signed my bald head. They never seemed upset by it, because I tried desperately hard to prove to them I was not worried by my lack of hair. They enjoyed the creativity of making me hats and as the weather warmed, I began decorating my head with glittery body art. People would stop me in the street to comment on my brave, edgy look. I hope I encouraged other cancer patients to have the confidence to show a little scalp and not hide from their disease. Maybe if more people see how many of us there are, money will more freely flow to the people who can make a difference in the fight against cancer.
One of the greatest things I did for myself was to get involved with the American Cancer Society and start a Relay for Life team. I was able to surround myself with fellow cancer survivors and brought my equestrian friends along for the ride. Our walk is in two short weeks and we have raised over $5000! Our biggest fund raising event was called “Relay Into Spring” held at my farm, Fell-Vallee Equestrian Center. My goal was to show the community that since cancer doesn't stop for us, we won't stop for cancer. I also wanted children to understand that cancer patients are not frightening and that we are just fighting a battle in our bodies that they won't catch. It was an uplifting moment for me and my friends and family. The community had a wonderful time with the horses and the healing qualities of the animals and friends rejuvenated me. If you would like to donate to my Relay for Life team, there is still time! Every little bit helps and your money goes directly to cancer research, education and to assist with currently diagnosed cancer patients.
Ride your horses every day believing this might be your last ride and make the most of it. Love these magnificent creatures for what they are and be humbled by the fact they allow you on their backs and are willing to connect to your aids.
Ride to find happiness, not just submission. Ride for beauty. Ride for strength. Ride because it makes both of you smile!