Rider who had surgery to remove brain tumour is aiming for 2020 Paralympics

A rider who was told six weeks ago her headache was caused by a brain tumour has since had surgery, applied for para classification and started to work towards a dream of competing at the 2020 Paralympics.

Ginny Gray thought the severe headache she woke up with on 10 February was a minor issue but when she saw her GP the next day, he sent her to hospital, where she was diagnosed with the tumour, which was the size of a golf ball.

On 15 March, she underwent surgery, which doctors said was a success, and is now recovering at home.

Ginny, a 41-year-old mother of two, told H&H that at first she could not believe the diagnosis.

“It’s very strange to go in four weeks from a headache to full brain surgery,” she said.

“The headache was strange – I’ve never had anything like it – but my husband thought it might be a migraine. I only go to the doctor for my children, so it was so strange when he said: ‘Hang on a minute’.

“The symptoms I had were so mild – tiredness, I thought my sight was failing, nothing I thought was significant – so once they’d done all the tests at the hospital and told me what it was, I didn’t believe them because I felt fine.

“I asked to see the scan because I didn’t believe it. It was a huge shock, to me, my husband, family and friends.”

But before her surgery, Ginny decided on her future plan, involving her 21-year-old gelding The Matrix (Maverick), and then in future her 10-year-old Digital Matrix (Digit), who are by the same stallion.

“I did loads of preparation because I was so excited about what I could do if I came out the other side,” she said. “I’ve got 12 corporate sponsors, all local businesses, and set up a Facebook page and a donation page, hopefully to help with the cost of training and travelling. I’m definitely aiming for the Paralympics.”

Ginny has applied for para classification, which takes some weeks to be confirmed, by which time she hopes the after-effects of the tumour’s removal will have subsided, so she can be back on board.

“This is like a silver lining to the cloud I’ve been under,” she said. “I would never have had the opportunity to compete at that sort of level before.

“My horse has done everything, from British Showjumping to unaffiliated eventing to a bit of dressage – what a chance to do this on him.”

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Ginny said the plan is to start training with Caroline Hunt of CHD Dressage, whom she has known for years, and then compete Maverick, with the aim of running Digit alongside in future.

“Digit’s called that because he was a polydactyl foal, born with an extra leg,” she added. “The vet said to put him down but I said no; they removed it at Donnington Grove vets and you’d never know now there was anything wrong.

“He hasn’t done a lot as my children came along soon after he was born, but I’m hoping I can get Maverick up and running, then get going with him once I’m feeling more myself. I’d hoped to be riding this week but where the tumour was is a void, so I get this very strange sloshing feeling. I’m hoping that will gradually get better as my brain re-expands into that area, and I’m already pottering about and lunging them.

“I feel so lucky. I was very lucky the GP was on the ball, I owe him a lot, and the surgeon said they got all the tumour out and although there’s a tiny chance it’ll come back, they’ll keep an eye on me.

“This is an amazing opportunity.”

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