Hi, my name is Hannah and I am 17 years old
I’ve ridden horses all my life; it is my absolute passion and it is my dream to ride at the top of the sport however on May 1st I was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer in my pelvis, right hip joint, lower spine and lungs called Osteosarcoma. It began when I’d started having pains in my right leg back in January 2015. At this time it was only mild but gradually it got worse and worse to the point at which I was in floods of tears, so we went to the doctors and I was referred urgently to see an orthopaedic consultant. My “urgent” referral would not be until the end of April however! I was still riding at this point though as this did not give me any grief so we continued as per usual aiming for the event season that began in March with my two event horses Mavis and Chesney.
Unfortunately March didn’t start well when the first weekend saw a trip to A&E first thing Monday morning after a rotational fall off a horse whilst jumping on the Sunday – I have never hit the floor so hard or so fast in all my life and I really did think I had broken something! However I must be made of tough stuff as the x-ray showed that nothing was broken and I was just sent home with lots of painkillers. The very next day I was back on board a horse (anyone that knows me know that’s me!) as both horses were entered for Moreton BE the following weekend. On the Saturday we headed down to Dorset with Mavis where she did a beautiful test for 28 and clear round showjumping . We walked the cross country after my showjumping and I really struggled – I didn’t think I was that unfit - Dad also commented on the fact that I had developed a limp, as had many others. I just put it down to the fall I’d had the weekend before. Anyway I still went cross country and she flew round! However on take-off over fence 11 I felt a horrendously painful rip pass across the bottom right of my back and my core seemed to crumple. It was horrific. When I passed through the finish flags I burst into tears, I could hardly move. When I dismounted I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg at all. I led out flat by the lorry when we got back there. I was in agony. I dosed up on painkillers and literally crawled to the score board. To my delight Mavis had finished 2nd but it was a long and painful trip home. For some stupid reason I was still determined to ride Chesney the following day and somehow I did but I will always regret it. It was the most miserable day I’ve ever had competing and I never ever want that to happen again as it almost made me hate the sport. That isn’t right at all because I know I will always love it no matter what as it is my absolute passion. Somehow we completed but poor Chesney did not have the best ride for his first ever event by any means! Never again and I definitely learnt from that mistake.
So we headed to A&E first thing Monday morning after another terrible sleepless night. Another x-ray later and still no breakages or fractures! The doctor put it down to ripped muscles in my back and I would need 2-3 weeks off riding and then gently ease back in. The next couple of weeks saw no real improvement so we started physiotherapy. He too saw no improvement and was concerned with my lack of progress. He thought it would be a good idea to see an orthopaedic consultant. To speed things up we saw a private consultant at the start of April and he predicted that the pain was likely to be due to a slipped disk in my back. An MRI was needed to determine this. Despite the pain my passion had taken over once more and I’d started riding again as I had been accepted onto a rider development eventing pathway assessment day in April at Kingston Maurward College. Mavis was an absolute superstar all day and didn’t put a hoof wrong - we had everything crossed that we would be the lucky combination accepted as they only took one forward.
On April 21st we went to Bath RUH to see an orthopaedic consultant. She had already organised an MRI for the following Monday. The whole experience was so painful as I couldn’t lie on my back and overall I was in the MRI machine for nearly 2 hours. That same week the riders that had been accepted onto the camp in July were announced and I was the rider selected for eventing! I couldn’t believe it; I was absolutely over the moon. However I wouldn’t be making it as Mum was told on the phone two days after my scan that we needed to go to Bristol Children’s Hospital on the Friday and to make sure that Mum, Dad and I were all there.
Friday came far too quickly. When my name was called to walk up the corridor to the consulting room and my doctor stood at the end with a straight face I just knew it wasn’t good news. Three consultants sat in a line in the room. A little man spoke first, he was very sympathetic. He said “I’m very sorry but the scans show that there is a soft mass that has grown from your pelvis. We assume that this is cancerous due to the way that it has grown. Hannah will need a biopsy to determine the type of cancer it is before we make a plan for Hannah’s treatment, let me give you a moment to take this in.” Mum had turned very pale and with that she fainted to the floor, white as a ghost. I was in absolute shock. Actually I was totally stunned. Cancer? I’ve got a slipped disk, that’s what they had all said. Dad grabbed me and hugged me so hard. I don’t think he could believe it either. What had just happened? We were all so shocked. Anthony, the oncologist, went on to explain the next steps and answered Mum and Dad’s questions but I couldn’t say a word, I didn’t know what to say. We left the hospital in silence. Mum couldn’t stop crying and Dad has never gripped my hand so tight. It was a quiet journey home and what was worse was that we still had to tell my brother Sam when we got home. He too didn’t believe us at first but he had to when none of us smiled. It was awful seeing his little face crumple and him turn as he didn’t want us to see him cry.
Over the next few weeks everything seemed to take so long. We wanted to leave the hospital and have my biopsy straight away. Nothing seemed fast enough. I went under general anaesthetic for a biopsy in Birmingham which is where they take a sample from your tumour and test it to see what type of cancer it is. This was when we discovered that I have osteosarcoma, 1 in 30 people get this type of cancer in the UK each year usually in their arms or legs – it’s very unusual to have it in your pelvis. I had another MRI two weeks after the first to see how much it had grown and it had increased in size by a shocking amount so it was determined as a really aggressive cancer. I had a CT scan to see if it was in my lungs too… and it was. I also had a bone scan to see if it was in any of my other bones; fortunately it hadn’t spread to any others which was such a relief! I had a line called a Hickman put into my chest which allows them to take blood and give me my chemotherapy drugs. On 10th May I received a soft toy horse called Willberry. He was to become my mascot and go everywhere with me. Little did I know how famous he would become or how important he would be to me, let alone how much I would love and rely on him by my side. He is super special and always smiling. So, together, we finally began chemotherapy on 21st May, 21 days after being diagnosed. The journey and fight against this awful disease had begun. We were going to do all that we could to beat it and before we knew it we had the whole world behind us too. Hannah and her wonder pony were #kickingcancersbutt.