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‘Chemo’s a breeze compared to not riding!’ Rider with cancer aims to be back hunting by Boxing Day

A rider diagnosed with stage four cancer says chemotherapy is “a breeze” compared to not being with her horses – but she hopes to be hunting again by next Boxing Day.

Sophie Walker , 24, was at first told she was suffering with a chest infection when she saw doctors late last year. But the point-to-point rider, who also hunts and ran her family’s large yard in Rutland, knew something was more wrong when she was barely able to ride two horses a day, compared to her usual 10.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma a month ago, and is now in her fourth week of intense chemotherapy.

“They’re doing it for four months in the hope that will pretty much get it all,” she said. “But it could be six months. It’s spread all over; my neck, throat, stomach, liver, bones, chest, lungs – so I’ll have scar tissue afterwards and won’t be able to dive or go high-altitude skiing, and whether I’ll be able to race again, I don’t know.

“My hair started falling out a week or so ago and it was the Cottesmore hunt ball that weekend so I didn’t let anyone touch my hair; I just had to make it to the ball before it fell out. I only stayed for the dinner and when I got home it was all itchy – and the whole lot came out. But it stayed for the ball, so that was fine!”

Picture by Graham Raynsford

Sophie said while the chemotherapy is hard, “watching other people ride the horses is harder; the chemo is a breeze in the park compared to that!”

Sophie’s family has rallied round; her sister left her job to take on the yard, while her sister’s boyfriend is riding the pointers.

And Sophie herself hopes to be back in the saddle at least sometimes once the weather improves and she is less likely to contract an infection, with her immune system weakened by the chemotherapy.

She said she has felt better since she found out what she was dealing with, and had a treatment plan, plus having the horses helps.

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“I put something on Facebook to say ‘this is what’s happening; talk to me if you want to and don’t if you don’t but I’m fine, this is where I am and this is what I’m doing,” she said.

“I’ve got a plan; let’s crack on with it. I still go out every morning and evening to check the horses, to give myself a routine and a purpose.”

Sophie was approached by local photographer Graham Raynsford, who offered to take her pictures at the yard.

And although Sophie knows she has a long road ahead, she hopes to be hunting again by Christmas.

“I want to get my side-saddle out again!” she said.

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