They say that everything happens for a reason. While many people have to wait for the reason to manifest, it didn't take long for Polly Featherstonhaugh to discover why falling off a horse was a blessing in disguise.
The 30-year-old equine enthusiast has always loved horses. She grew up surrounded by the four-legged animals and started riding at a very young age. In fact, she loves horses so much that in 2014 she opened up her very own rescue centre for the galloping animals.
In 2015, Polly was out on a ride with a rescue, a former racehorse named Yorkie, when things took a scary turn. The thoroughbred was startled by something in its surroundings and as a response accidentally knocked the young woman off its back after her feet came out of the stirrups.
"I clung on for dear life," Polly told The Mirror. "You're taught to take your other foot out of the stirrup too, otherwise you can be dragged under the animal, but there wasn't time before Yorkie flipped me off and I landed with a heavy thud on my back. As I lay on the ground, I knew instantly there was a problem."
Unfortunately, Polly was subjected to an excruciating 45-minute wait for an ambulance and during that time she had no idea what the extent of her injuries were.
"I was relieved that I could wiggle my toes, but even breathing hurt at the time, and the pain was coming in severe waves. I was just screaming," recalled Polly. "I couldn't move and I can't remember a lot, as I was given gas and air as well as morphine. I don't know how long it all took, but it felt quick after the ambulance arrived," she added.
After some tests and scans at the Pembury Hospital, results showed that Polly had suffered a cracked vertebrae, a concertinaed spine and a broken thumb.
Doctors also spotted another issue with the scans and gave Polly an unexpected diagnosis that changed her life.
Turns out, falling off a horse was one of the best and worst things to happen to Polly. Not only did she endure some severe trauma to her spine, doctors also caught a 4cm cyst on her ovary.
The cyst was initially passed off as benign and Polly was cleared to go home after an oophorectomy (ovary removal surgery). But following a visit to a London specialist, it was confirmed that the cyst was in fact cancerous.
Had it not been for the fall she suffered, Polly's symptomless cancer would've remained hidden because it is undetectable in tests and doesn't manifest itself until it reaches the size of a grapefruit.
Upon the cancer diagnosis, the horse-lover was immediately booked in for chemotherapy treatments.
"The chemo was really intensive. I would be in hospital for five days, having 30 hours of chemo, go home for 18 hours, then back again for another five days. And I did this for 12 weeks. It was a horrific experience," said Polly.
Thanks to her fighter spirit and the support of her partner, Alex, Polly's treatments proved successful and she was cancer-free. She'll have to go through regular scans over the next 5 years before she can be given a clean bill of health.
Since returning home, Polly and Alex are kickstarting her second chance at life by expanding their family. The couple are expecting a baby boy, Oliver, this July.
Polly will likely never ride again but she will always be grateful for Yorkie.
"I feel I owe it all to Yorkie in a way," Polly admits. "If I hadn't have come off that horse, we wouldn't have known about the cancer until you could physically see it, and by then it would have been too late for me. His horsing around that day may have broken my back, but he saved my life, so I forgive him! Everybody needs good neigh-bours and Yorkie is definitely mine."
[H/T: The Mirror]