Rider who underwent cancer surgery aged 13 aims to raise £10,000

  • A teenage rider who underwent major surgery for a rare form of ovarian cancer is to cycle more than 200 miles in aid of the hospital that saved her, and Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity.

    Tabitha Wood was 13 when she was diagnosed with cancer in September 2017, after which surgeons removed a tumour the size of a 20-week-old foetus. Having then suffered from internal bleeding and a spinal infection, she is now well, and determined to give something back.

    “We didn’t know there was anything wrong at all, at first,” mum Sarah Wood told H&H.

    “She had this lump and was tired, and the doctor thought it was PMT or diabetes. Then she went to hospital and they said: ‘I’m really sorry’.

    “The tumour was huge; it was amazing she was still functioning.”

    The grade three tumour was growing fast but as the cancer had not spread, the “amazing” surgeon who treated Tabby was able to remove it in its entirety.

    A couple of months later, Tabby, who had previously competed in showing, riding at the Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International, but had moved into dressage shortly before her diagnosis, was back in the saddle.

    “Horses were what kept her going through the worst times of her illness,” Sarah said.

    “They cut her open from hip to hip so she struggles a lot with her core muscles, but she’s gone from doing her first prelim dressage test on her pony Otto in October last year to representing the northern region at dressage in the inter regionals this weekend (29 to 30 June) and also England and the north at the dressage home international next month.

    “She keeps her pony with Amy Woodhead and Amy and her team have been amazing in nurturing her through the difficult times, even getting her a personal message from Carl Hester when she was ill, who’s her idol.

    “She just got on with it; never complained or said ‘poor me’, she amazes me.”

    Tabby still has to have regular scans to make sure she is clear of the cancer, and it was while waiting for an appointment at the Leeds General Infirmary cancer ward, “which saved her life”, but looked “a bit miserable”, when she suggested raising money.

    “It’s an eight-bed ward for 15- to 18-year-olds and it’s lovely but not great so she asked the staff what they’d like and they suggested an iPad for each bed. Tabs said it would be amazing to make someone’s life better, that really got her going.”

    In August, Tabby is to cycle from Charing Cross Hospital, where her specialist is based, to Leeds General Infirmary, with the aim of raising £10,000. Her brother Ben, 19, is to join her, as is her dad Adrian, “who’s considerably older!” while Sarah is to drive a motorhome for the cyclists to sleep in, on what they expect will be a four to five-day trip.

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    The money will be split between the hospital and Hannah Francis’s charity, which sent Tabby clothing and a letter while she was ill.

    “We were based with Amy, and Carl had sent her a lovely book and message so she couldn’t think of a horsey wish but they sent such a lovely supportive letter,” Sarah said.

    “I think that’s one reason they’re such an excellent charity; a lot of people don’t know what to say but how they wrote the letter was brilliant, and made her feel so much better.

    “We started her fundraising page on Wednesday (26 June) and in a half a day, it had raised £1,000. We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who don’t even know us.

    “I think Amy would be so pleased to know she’s made things better for other children; she just wants to make a difference to other people’s lives. I’m so proud of her.”

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