After experiencing symptoms from severe pain in her lower abdomen to vomiting, Carol Hogg was told she had a malignant tumour. Going through periods of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Carol then had her tumour removed. Amazingly, she was able to run Dressage Championships during this period. Read Carol’s story. In early 2001, I went to see my GP complaining of pain and bleeding. I was nearly 58 years old and I was diagnosed with external thrombosed piles. My symptoms ranged from severe pain in my lower abdomen to vomiting, which I continued to visit my GP about. A stool examination proved negative and nothing was really confirmed. I continued presenting the same symptoms throughout 2001. I saw a locum, during one visit in December, who was very sympathetic and referred me to Professor Mortensen at the JR for a colonoscopy. Following the colonoscopy, Professor Mortensen told me that I had a tumour, and referred me for an MRI scan. In April, I was told I had a malignant rectal tumour about 40mm. The tumour was less than a millimetre from the sacrum in one point, which would compromise any surgical excision. Therefore, it was agreed that I would have down staging chemotherapy and radiotherapy before the tumour could be removed. I would also urgently need to have a loop ileostomy procedure. I went to the JR for the ileostomy, where I was assigned a stoma nurse, Simon, who explained everything very clearly and was amazingly kind. During this time he became almost my best friend, encouraging me to think of the little piece of intestine that were now coming from my tummy as a friend rather than a foe – and Willemina was born.
A period of chemotherapy as an in-patient was followed by radiotherapy, with intense daily trips to Churchill Hospital. I realised that ‘driving’ friends were essential, and I had a whole team of amazing friends to support me, including the best Jenny Farmer, and my daughter Becky. I remember Professor Mortensen telling me to think of it all as rather like expecting a baby – a few months of discomfort but an exciting outcome. Very positive thinking. I never once doubted him! The summer passed– I hardly gave up anything – apart from riding as Willemena did prove to be a little unreliable and I was nervous of my ileostomy bag coming adrift – I lost quite a lot of confidence over that. During the period I was waiting for the operation to remove the tumour, I formed a brand new Dressage Training Group for Children called Dressage U21s UK. I also ran a 3 day Dressage Championships for about 100 children’s and their parents near Buckingham, which was exhausting but great fun. It stopped me thinking about what I couldn`t do!
The operation finally came in late October at the JR. I was very much looking forward to it – and had come to terms with the fact that my friend Willemena was going to be with me for quite some time afterwards. I came around slowly from the operation. Unfortunately, when moving to a new ward, my drip line was caught in the door of the lift– not for long, but long enough to pull it out causing pain and mess. It is amazing how quickly one gets over mini disasters though. Two days after my operation I was managing Talent Spotting for 25 children again at Addington Manor – the only difference was this time I was doing it from my bed through emails, my website, and phone calls. (Sadly, no facebook then). Over the next few weeks I began to realise how lucky I had been. I continued to visit the JR as an outpatient and at some stage Professor Mortenson spoke about to me about OCCTOPUS. The operation I had had could be simplified through a keyhole procedure, meaning far less risk of infection. I knew then that we needed to run an U21s UK Dressage Championships to raise money for OCCTOPUS.
In 2004 the first Winter Dressage Championships in aid of OCCTOPUS happened. We had lots of Sponsors and the venue came almost free which meant we were able to make a big donation of £2,500. However, over the years it has become much more difficult to raise money and pay bills for events such as these. Free venues no longer happen, and things like judges, prizes, rosettes, and the like which all have to be paid for. We will be hosting our 15th Winter Dressage Championships for children from all areas at all levels on 19th May 2018, having had to reschedule it from March following the very bad weather. My advice to anyone going through Cancer is to find something positive to do – get on and do it – because it will keep you focussed. Thank you, Carol. We are grateful for all the support you and your dressage group have given to OCCTOPUS over the past years. To find out more about Carol and her dressage championships, visit her website.