Alanna McPartlin, a horse blogger from Corvallis, Oregon, encountered a life changing moment a few summers ago when she discovered a small lump while applying lotion to her sunburnt chest. She was only 24 at the time.
October is breast cancer awareness month and Sidelines magazine has dedicated the issue to equestrians who’ve battled cancer. Thanks to Genny at A Gift Horse who connected me, I got to interview Alanna for the magazine.
Through telephone conversations and multiple email exchanges this past summer, Alanna shared her breast cancer story with me. I was honored to have someone I hadn’t met in person open up about such a personal journey.
Alanna’s motivation in sharing her experience is to encourage other women who face similar diagnoses. She wants them to know they are not alone.
When I submitted this story, “Cantering Through Cancer,” to my editor, she said it made her cry. Alanna’s faith in God, support network of family and friends, and horses buoyed her on a dark road of doctor’s visits, surgeries, and chemotherapy. Hers is a beautiful story of hope and horses. You’ll love the twist regarding how Alanna ended up meeting and buying her dream horse!
I hope you are as touched by her story as I have been. Enjoy this excerpt or click here to read the entire article.
Cantering Through Cancer With Faith, Friends, and a Filly
Twenty-four year old Alanna McPartlin discovered she had more than just a sunburn while applying lotion across her pink chest where her V-neck shirt had exposed her skin during an outdoor concert. As her left arm grazed her breast, she detected a bump she hadn’t noticed before. It was two and a half centimeters wide.
It was a Sunday night at the end of August 2012 when the equestrian from Corvallis, Oregon, discovered the lump. She panicked and immediately began Googling “breast cancer.” While scouring the Internet search results, what didn’t add up to Alanna was her young age and lack of family history of cancer.
Yet one of the symptoms that matched her situation perfectly was “painless lump.” On Friday of that week, Alanna went to see her doctor. The next Monday, she experienced an ultrasound; Wednesday a biopsy; and by the following Friday received a preliminary cancer diagnosis.
“It was definitely a whirlwind!” Alanna recalled. Her heart dropped when, during her fourth appointment, the doctor said, “We’re here today to find out what kind of cancer you have.” No one on any of the three lead-up medical visits had used those words before.
The day after her cancer diagnosis, Alanna rode her now-retired Thoroughbred eventer at the beach with a friend. She referred to that ride as “equine therapy.”
Facing Fear and Treatments
Alanna stated that the fear of the unknown was the scariest part of her cancer diagnosis, and the hardest part was “not knowing what the treatments would be like or how bad the diagnosis is or isn’t.”
Alanna underwent a mastectomy and for about two months it was undecided if she needed chemotherapy. The good news was the cancer was not in her lymph nodes, and had been detected early. However, the doctors tested the genetics of the tumor to determine the likelihood of the cancer’s recurrence, and based on the results, Alanna began chemotherapy. She received eight treatments spaced out two weeks apart.
Today Alanna is horse showing and enjoying her dream filly who is growing up into a lovely mare. You should definitely check out her blog titled Pony Express.
If you or someone you know is walking or has walked a similar path with cancer, Alanna is very open to connect with others. You can reach her through her blog and even follow along on Instagram.