Leeds cancer survivor and her therapy horse in Race For Life at Home

A therapy horse helped Leeds breast cancer survivor Catherine Meeson overcome the trauma of fighting the disease.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 3:03 pm
Catherine Meeson with therapy horse, JD.

Now the rescued horse, called JD, is set to be at the 63 year old grandma's side as she tackles this month's Race For Life at Home to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK.

Former HR advisor Catherine, of Burley, had just started a challenging new job when a routine mammogram in October 2014 revealed she was suffering from breast cancer.

The mammogram caught the cancer in time and Catherine went on to have a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a course of Herceptin.

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Catherine said her mental health started to suffer at the end of her treatment.

"I fell into a black hole, started experiencing severe anxiety, panic attacks, which meant I couldn’t even go to the supermarket without having a mini meltdown," she said.

"I was lonely because I couldn’t explain to anybody else how I felt. I gave up my job."

Catherine was referred for equine assisted therapy with Equine Pathways UK, based at Carr Hall Farm in Gildersome, Leeds

Catherine Meeson

She was able to build a strong connection with one of the therapy horses, JD.

"It was JD who played a pivotal role in restoring my mental health, we helped rescue each other," said Catherine.

"The hard work involved in caring for him and the horses vastly improved my physical health too.

"But it wasn’t a quick fix and it took 18 months before I was truly able to move on from the trauma that cancer inflicted on my life.

Catherine Meeson with therapy horse, JD

“Cancer and working with the horses have taught me a lot about myself. I don’t worry about the small stuff anymore.

“The mammogram that found my cancer and the treatment I had to fight it, especially the drug Herceptin, which Cancer Research UK helped develop, undoubtedly saved my life. Then JD and the horses saved me.”

The horses and Carr Hall Farm are still a major part of Catherine’s life and she continues to volunteer there three days a week.

 All Cancer Research UK's 400 mass-participation Race for Life events across the UK were cancelled last year.

And events that were scheduled for this spring and early summer have also now been postponed.

A live broadcast on the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Facebook and Race for Life Instagram pages on Saturday April 24 will include an energiser from a fitness expert as well as inspirational messages of support from people who have been through cancer.

Participants are then invited to run, walk or jog 5K.

Organisers are also inviting participants to share photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #RaceatHome 

  Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Leeds, said: “Even whilst we’re still apart, we can unite against cancer.

“There are a million reasons to Race for Life at Home, to help save lives, for those who have had vital treatment delayed or just for a reason to get off the sofa. We want people to run, walk or jog 5K and raise money for life-saving research."

She added: "We’d love to invite as many people as possible to Race for Life at Home this spring then physically come together in the autumn to join us for Race for Life Leeds.”

  The Leeds Race for Life 3K, 5K, 10K and Pretty Muddy events which are open to all ages and abilities have been rescheduled for this autumn and are now due to take place at Temple Newsam Park on Sunday October 17. 

  Sign up to Race for Life at Home this April, and visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770. Join in and share with #RaceatHome 

People can visit raceforlife.org to sign up to Race for Life at Home for £5* then receive a Race pack which includes a medal.