‘I want to give something back’: rider to take part in first race following cancer treatment

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  • A rider who was diagnosed with cervical cancer six months ago is preparing to take part in her first race.

    Annabel England was given the diagnosis in July 2017 and had a radical hysterectomy in September.

    Surgeons also removed her lymph nodes during the four-and-a-half hour operation to prevent the cancer from spreading.

    The mother of two will take part in the Best Western Hotels & Macmillan Ride of their Lives charity race at York racecourse on 16 June.

    She will compete alongside eventer Matthew Wright, Love Island finalist Chris Hughes and nine other riders.

    Annabel told H&H she decided to sign up after seeing a post from her friend and 2017 Ride of their Lives winner Belinda Keighley on Facebook.

    I wanted to give something back — I’m still here and I want to make a difference somewhere, for someone,” said Annabel.

    “I felt this is the way I could possibly do that.”

    The 45-year-old, who owns a “lovely cob” named Russell, has been riding out most mornings for H&H columnist Fergal O’Brien and Kim Bailey in preparation for the race.

    Annabel discovered riding Russell helped with her recovery from the nerve damage she sustained to her leg during surgery.

    Although this will be her first race, Annabel has a racing background — she used to ride out with Cathy Twiston-Davies on Sam and Willy Twiston-Davies’ point-to-pointers before they turned professional.

    She also keeps her son’s racing pony fit while he is at school.

    “This for me was stepping off the sidelines and getting in the action as well,” she added.

    “It has been a really good thing to focus on — from the point of view of my fitness and my leg it is already pushing me to get fitter than I probably would have been in this stage of my recovery.

    “I’m really enjoying it, everyone has been really welcoming.”

    Annabel is hoping to raise £10,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, which she said provided her with fantastic trusted, detailed information about her illness and how to talk to her children.

    “Everything you could possibly think of, Macmillan has written a leaflet about it,” said Annabel.

    “When you are told something terrible, you want to try to understand it. When you go online there’s a lot of misinformation. With Macmillan you get the facts and there is always a nurse you can talk to.”

    She added having cancer has been mentally and physically exhausting.

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    “Some days I feel so guilty that people I know who have cancer are far worse off than me and then other days I don’t know what to feel as I take in what happened to me — getting my diagnosis, having surgery and then my recovery,” said Annabel.

    “I suppose it’s all very grounding in some ways and you think ‘oh bloody hell who knows what will happen in life’.”

    She said her partner Simon is “very excited” about the race, but has also questioned her decision to take part.

    “I just had this real urge to do this and take on this challenge,” she said.

    “It’s something I need to do for myself. It’s something positive in the face of all the negativity that cancer brought into my life.”

    To support Annabel, visit: www.justgiving.com/belsengland

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