A hairdresser who beat breast cancer is training in the saddle ahead of the biggest track day of her life at York Racecourse.
Marcia Sanderson is one of 12 members of the public preparing to take on the Ride of their Lives - a horse race in front of more than 25,000 people at Macmillan Charity Raceday on June 11. The Best Western Hotels-sponsored event will also help raise thousands of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support.
For mother-of-two Mrs Sanderson, of Hunton near Bedale, North Yorkshire, the motivation for taking part is clear. In October 2003 she was diagnosed with cancer.
The 47-year-old said: “It’s funny how your whole life can change in a flash. You see everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve created, and everything you’ve planned, rendered irrelevant in an instant.
“As the next few days passed by in a blur of tests and scans, all I could think about was my baby girl and my little boy. My daughter, Jemima, was just 10-months-old and Hugh wasn’t yet three-years-old.
“Within a matter of days I was on the operating table; a total mastectomy of the left breast with several lymph nodes stripped away from beneath my left arm too.
“I also needed chemotherapy - my regime was to last for six courses and I would need three weeks between each session to recover. It was a strange period of my life. It was not a particularly happy time, but nor was it a particularly unhappy time. It was just a path that had to be trod before normal service could resume.
“I felt quite disconnected from the world I had once lived in and looked forward to getting it back.”
Mrs Sanderson was treated at York Hospital where she received emotional support from Macmillan nurses. In 2006, two years after finishing her treatment, she decided to have reconstructive breast surgery.
She said: “It was tough. I have never felt so low and in so much pain in my life. I repaired and I recovered, as the experts said I would, and to say that I am pleased with the end result, and the life it has empowered me to lead since, would be a serious understatement. I am grateful for the last ten years. I am grateful for the amazing doctors and nurses who saved my life; and I am grateful for the support of my family, my friends and Macmillan.”
Mrs Sanderson, who runs her own hairdressing salon, Masham Hair in Masham, reports that her training for the Ride of their Lives event is going well.
She has been training with former flat jockey Tom O’Ryan and on the day of the race she will be riding out on a horse owned by trainer Phil Kirby.
She said: “I’ve never done an amateur race before but I’ve ridden horses all my life. It is the chance of a lifetime - you never get this opportunity, to ride out in front of 25,000 people, as an amateur. It will be amazing.”
Each rider has to raise at least £2,500 for Macmillan and Mrs Sanderson has set her sights on raising double that.
And she is hosting a charity fashion show at Millbry Hill store in Richmond on May 25 to boost her fundraising efforts.
The other riders are: Owen Dukes of Malton, Ruth Carr of Stillington, York, Julie Kelshaw of Harrogate, Christine Swiers from Norton-le-Clay near Ripon, Steve Charlton of Bishop Auckland, Rebecca Robinson of Brompton by Sawdon, Scarborough, Debra Boyes of Pickering, Susanne Martin of York, Siobhan Carey of Buckinghamshire, Keith Oakes of Appleby in Westmoreland, Cumbria, and Martina Mulhall of Leeds.
All the jockeys have a training day with former champion jockey Kevin Darley to look forward to before race day and each rider is raising sponsorship online via the JustGiving website.