Fear is a feeling that’s familiar to all of us. Sometimes, it arrives alone at night to wake us from a serene sleep. Once in awhile, the feeling of fear grows so tall it feels as if it’s become its own being. Sometimes it’s a feeling of reaction; an emotion that sets in after your doctor utters the word: “cancer”.
Mary Alice Peoples knows a few things about fear. She also knows the strength it takes to battle it. Mary Alice understands the moment of looking fear in its eyes, and fighting it until it falls prey to the feeling of empowerment. She knows it because she did it. Mary Alice is now a breast cancer survivor.
The word “cancer” first entered Mary Alice’s world Apr. 8, 2014. On that day, she decided to fight the disease — while trying to keep the fear at bay. Mary Alice used every kind of ammo doctors could find to win the battle going on inside her body. The treatments became a timeline of days that added up to the one-year anniversary of Mary Alice’s cancer detection.
“I wanted it to be a different kind of anniversary,” Mary Alice said. “I wanted to redeem that day on the calendar in a special way. So, I visited Agape and I attended my first volunteer orientation [at Agape] on the one-year anniversary of the cancer detection.”
In exactly one year, Mary Alice went from holding an IV stand to holding the reins for Butterbean. Although Mary Alice is a dedicated volunteer in our barn and arena, she wanted to take her experience at Agape even further.
Mary Alice said she wanted to feel the strength she saw in riders she helped — during therapeutic riding classes. She wanted to hear peace, amongst the static that swirled when she thought of her cancer.
“Bean really gives me the confidence to feel peacefully focused,” Mary Alice shared. “After being diagnosed [with breast cancer], I had a hard time finding calmness; it was tough to just let go and focus on the present.”
After entering Agape’s barn doors every Thursday morning to step into Bean’s stirrups, and learn from instructor Cody Bogard, Mary Alice reached a new achievement: Remission.
As Mary Alice was learning to listen for calmness, her body defeated the disease. Remission meant the cancer was gone, but there was still more to Mary Alice’s fight.
“I really needed to get my strength up; when I first started riding I’d have to go home and sleep all afternoon,” Mary Alice said. “Now, I can ride and continue living my day; riding Bean [at Agape] has strengthened me in so many ways.”
Saturday, Mary Alice found a new kind of strength as she and Bean performed a pattern during the National Anthem for Mane Event. Out in the middle of the arena, under a vast Bradford Woods treeline, Mary Alice side-passed, trotted, pivoted and performed in front of hundreds of people.
Before the pattern, Mary Alice said she felt a little reacquaintance with fear.
“I’m so nervous; I keep going through all of it in my head,” Mary Alice said.
But, just like it did months ago, the fear faded once Mary Alice partnered with Bean. Mary Alice’s faith shone through as she rode a pattern that filled the eyes of onlookers with tears.
It was in that moment with Bean, Mary Alice knew fear would never win again.