Don’t worry, you’re harder to kill than you think

If you know anyone who’s had breast cancer, if you love anyone who’s had breast cancer, and if you are related to anyone who’s had breast cancer; then you might relate to this.

We have a lot of cancer in my family, leukaemia, breast, ovarian are the main types. We discovered a couple of years back that our family, on my mothers side, carries the BRAC1 gene. This means a greater likelihood of getting breast and ovarian cancer runs in the family. We’ve lost an aunt and a cousin to ovarian and two of my sisters have had breast cancer. Both of my sisters have the BRAC1 gene. My oldest sister prefers not to say, that’s just her style. And I don’t have the gene.

Believe it or not, this mother of a lump is benign. It’s called a fibroadenoma.

That being said, my family history still indicates that I’m at a higher risk than the average person for these types of cancers; it’s a numbers game.

Now, the thing I want to drive home is, you have to keep checking yourself. There is a very common sort of denial that sets in when someone has cancer in their family (any cancer). The weight of it hanging over your head becomes too much and you just don’t want to think about it anymore. The pain and suffering its caused people you love, the death. Screw it, you want to live, not think about signs of cancer every time you look in the mirror or feel a pang of something in your body.

Chances are, that bump or ache IS nothing and can be explained. But you have to stay on top of it. For me, the terror of doing a breast check and finding a lump was definitely something I started to avoid – but avoiding it, and then finding a lump months or years after it started growing is much, much worse. I remember my sister telling me the same thing, that she had ignored some signs that later turned out to be signs of a malignancy. We aren’t the only ones who do this, it’s called denial.

Most of the lumps you find will be benign, but with regular self-checks, even the ones that aren’t fine, will be caught early and dealt with EARLY; and life goes on. Cancer is not a death sentence the way it once was, but you have to balance the need to check yourself with the mental health of not living in fear every time you check yourself. I repeat, most of the things you find will be nothing!

If you know there is a prevalence of cancer in your family, but you’re not in a high risk program, go see your doctor and demand some kind action. I know a woman who’s mother and several aunts on her mothers side have had breast cancer. She doesn’t speak to her mother because her mother left her family when she was quite young. It is very possible her family carries the BRAC1 gene on her mothers side, but she has been avoiding self checks because, it’s terrifying. I gave her the same advice I’m giving here, most things will be nothing, but you have to know – don’t ignore things, don’t wait and don’t let a doctor blow you off if you have a family history; if you have breast or ovarian cancer in your family, demand the BRAC1 test.

Regardless of your current situation, if you are concerned about a lump or about your family history go to your doctor, explain your family history and have a discussion.

Check yourself, get to know what’s normal for your body, and don’t be afraid of changes – just be aware of them. They are probably nothing to worry about, seriously, most of them are nothing; but if they aren’t, you’ll be empowered to take care of it as soon as possible.

You got this. You’re harder to kill than you think.

9 of 9: Welcome Home Chuck

Horses can sense your excitement, and knowing this, Molly tried her best to act like she was calm and confident as she walked Chuckles around the trailer.

Molly recalled Natalie’s tales of their adventures together. How after his short-lived racing career, Natalie had competed with Chuckles at a variety of equestrian events…like eventing and jumping. They had quite a history together she had said, “We jumped as high as the jump standards would allow,” she had beamed. Molly marvelled at Chuckles, what a stunning animal. Sure, he was a little worse for wear now but she would fix that. She wondered why Natalie had stopped competing with him, but had never asked. 

It occurred to Molly that she had nothing to protect Chuckles legs for the trip. All of the horses at the farm where Molly took lessons wore leg protection when they trailered. She didn’t want him to kick himself during the ride back to Frank’s farm.

Wolf suggested they look at what Natalie had left behind, maybe there were some boots in there he could wear.  As luck would have it, right at the top of the big blue tupperware container of Chuckles stuff was a set of four fuzzy legs wraps, presumably for shipping.  

On the tub was written, “There is something about the outside of a horse, that is good for the inside of a man” – Ronald Regan”. Molly loved that quote, except that it was actually a quote by Winston Churchill. A reminder of how much younger Natalie was than Molly.

Wolf helped Molly put them on her horse, showing her how to wrap them and which leg to put which boot on. When it was time to put Chuckles on the trailer, Molly handed the lead rope over the Frank. She had never loaded a horse onto a trailer before, and no way she was going to learn how today.

After walking a wide circle, Frank led Chuckles up to the trailer with momentum and purpose. As they reached the step up, Chuckles stopped. He seemed to want to take a good look inside before getting in, and Frank let him take his time.

Frank reassured everyone that it was fine, and he again walked Chuckles away from the trailer, in a large loop and then back towards the entrance and this time Chuckles stepped up and in without hesitation. Frank tied him in with a bag of hay and in easy reach if he wanted to nibble at it during the trip. Chuckles would have taken many trips in a trailer before, so this wasn’t new for him.

In the process of walking Chuckles on, Wolf’s husband Steven had gotten stuck between the horse and the back corner while he had been trying to help guide him all the way in to the roomy livestock trailer. His face showed a flicker of fear as he realized Chuckles back end was between him and the exit. Darting his eyes between the horse and his narrow escape path, Steven took a breath and quickly side stepped past the haunches and moved off the trailer.

As they pulled out of the driveway of the farm, Molly heard a long, loud whinny come from Chuckles. She imagined, although it seemed silly, that he was calling to Natalie as he was leaving. He must have wondered what was happening and why she hadn’t been there to say good-bye, his best friend for so many years. 

They arrived at Franks farm in about an hour and a half. Chuckles walked off the trailer and seemed ok, a fact that relieved Molly. He could see the other horses in the field and gave a few excited snorts. His head was held high, showing his alert he was to his new surroundings, but he never looked afraid, only excited.

Molly smiled so hard her front teeth were dry as she walked Chuck around the property, letting him eat the grass and trying to be as calm as possible while he settled in. For starters, his name was now Chuck, not Chuckles. Chuckles sounded like a carnival clown name. Chuck suited him much better. Molly had been told years earlier that changing the name of a horse was bad luck, so this seemed a good compromise.

Bon appetit Chuck :)

Natalie had confirmed Chuck was current with his vaccinations, so he would pose no risk of disease to the other horses. Still, they would integrate him slowly, first letting them meet over the fence before putting them within striking distance of each other. Sometimes, when horses meet for the first time, the process for determining who’s in charge can be quite dramatic and scary to watch. Other times it’s uneventful. Regardless, it’s the nature of horses to meet and decide these things on their own terms.

What Molly would be in charge of, was clearing up Chuck’s scabs, and making sure he put some weight back on.

Chuck arrives at the new farm, and gets to know his surroundings.

8: Just buy the horse

You just never know, she thought, you never know when the choice might be taken away from you altogether. You sit on the fence and wait for things, the right moment, the right person, the right opportunity. And then maybe, one day, you realize it’s up to you to make the right moment, or let everything pass you by. You have to act.

I need to do this, I’ve wanted a horse my whole life for chrissakes. The fact that I haven’t bought one yet is ridiculous! Molly continued to reason with herself, pushing herself past the discomfort of making such a big commitment.

That night Molly had a small get together for Greta. Some local family came and Frank drove down from Kincardine. Molly was in a tizzy over her visit with Chuckles and was looking for support for her decision to purchase him.  Greta was fully on board with Molly, “Get the horse Molly, it’s what you want, just do it.”

Frank was more cautionary. “Is the owner rushing you to purchase? It’s a big expense to own a horse, much more than just the initial purchase price.”

Molly was annoyed by Frank’s advice, viewing it as negative, although in reality, it was very appropriate advice. Frank was a cautious sort of fellow, a guy who thought long and hard about any decision he made. If he ever came to a decision to make a move on something you can be sure there was some long and serious deliberation that went into it. Frank could see that Molly wanted this, even he was excited about the idea of a horse purchase. He had grown up with his fathers horses, and had Clydesdales of his own at his farm. He could see that Molly needed this, she’d been through a lot and maybe she was right, maybe you just never know what’s going to happen.

So Molly made the call to Natalie. 

“Hi Natalie it’s Molly, how are you!?” Molly spoke with the intensity of someone checking their winning lotto numbers.

“I’m good thanks, how are you doing?” Natalie replied casually.

“I’m great, listen, I’ve made my decision about Chuckles, and I’d like to take him. I don’t need a vet check,” Molly continued.

“Oh that’s great! I’m very happy to hear that, I can see he’d be very happy with you,” said Natalie.

“I still need to organize the trailering, but I was thinking of sometime next week?” offered Molly.

“Hmmm, I’ll be leaving in three days for Europe. If you can’t get him before then, I’ll put him in our front paddock since his pasture mate is leaving in two days. I can let my parents know if you’re coming. There are some sheep in that paddock that will keep him company,” said Natalie, not seeming at all concerned about leaving her horse alone to be picked up and possibly never see him again.

“Oh, okay!” replied Molly, “I just don’t know how I’ll be moving him yet but I’ll figure it out!”

 “My parents have sold their farm and will be moving in the next week as well, so it definitely needs to happen before they leave on the Friday.”

Molly was taken aback at the pace things were moving. She had nowhere to keep the horse much less a trailer to move it with. 

“Natalie, I’ll have to get back to you once I sort out the timing,” confirmed Molly.

“Ok, let me know and I’ll talk to you soon. Also, I’ll need payment in cash but I’ll provide you with a receipt.”

“Oh, ok, and I’ll pay you full price for Chuckles!” said Molly, not really understanding why she did so.

The truth was, she didn’t even want to negotiate. Molly had (almost) sealed the deal and it was an elevating feeling. Just what she needed. Without hesitation, Frank offered to pick up the horse and bring it home to his farm. He arranged to get off work and could make the trip on the Friday. It was now Wednesday so that gave them just over a week to prepare. Molly also arranged to get off work for the occasion. Everything was working out perfectly.

The following week flew by and Molly could hardly believe what was about to happen. She was about to pick up her new horse. She had made a lifelong dream a reality, it was surreal. She arrived at Franks farm on the Thursday so they could get an early start to pick up Chuckles Friday morning. Franks dad, who never missed a chance to take a trip that involved livestock, was also coming along. This delighted Molly.

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Bill kept several horses at his farm down the road from his son’s farm. He’d owned many animals over the years, including a pair of haflingers, a small, hardy breed of horses known for their light red coloured body hair and flaxen mane and tail. Bill had also kept a saddle horse for his daughter Sue. Long before she got married, moved away and had kids.  

On Friday morning they piled into the truck and set out at 5:30 a.m. There was excitement in the air and Molly was beyond happy.  It was one of the happiest moments of her life. After about an hour they arrived at the small farm and pulled in to the gravel driveway. Bill hopped out and opened the gate.  They were greeted by Natalies mother, who had the unusual name of “Wolf”.  Molly wondered how the woman had come to have the name Wolf, and imagined her parents must have been extreme hippies, but then again, she was too old to have hippy parents. Maybe she was German? Wolf was a man’s name, she thought.  Anyways, it was cool, who wouldn’t want to be a “Wolf”. 

They were soon joined by Wolf’s husband, Steven.  Wolf and Steven showed Molly where Chuckles stuff was, Natalie had left some things for Molly, things she thought she might need. Chuckles was now in a grassy field with a small herd of sheep and stood looking at Molly as she approached him. He was more alert this time, like he knew something was about to happen.

Wold offered Molly some tips on how to lead Chuckles. “You hold the lead like this, and look ahead, lead him with confidence”, she said, holding the lead and purposefully walking him out of the field. He went willingly, but was a little more excited than the first time Molly had met him, a little fresh.

Wolf handed Molly the lead and she walked him around, letting him eat a little grass and then walking around a little more.

“I’m walking my horse,” she thought with utter glee and excitement. The feeling was pure love when she looked at this amazing animal. There’s no other word for it.

With one hand holding Chuckles lead, and the other hand reaching into her coat pocket, Molly pulled out the envelope of money and handed it to Wolf.