In October 2010, Angela Ganter was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, in cancer-free fashion, she shares her story, philosophy on life and barrel racing’s place in it.
“The horse that put me on the map was Don’t Cross The Bully,” she says. “He was already proven, so when I bought him, I had to step up to the plate. He’d already made a name for Troy [Crumrine], and he made a name for me. We’ve won on lots of different horses since then, but he was the start of it all. He was so gritty; he had all the try in the world. He just wanted to win.”
They say horses are a reflection of their owners. Fast forward to the fateful day two years ago, when Ganter found a suspicious knot under arm. That discovery marked the start of a grueling journey that would reveal just how gritty she was.
Doctors identified the lump as an enlarged lymph node. Suspicious of cancer, they surgically removed it and subsequently began screenings in the form of MRIs and CT scans. Only the state-of-the-art equipment at Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas – which Ganter endorses as the No. 1 hospital for breast cancer in Texas – was able to locate the small, malignant mass in her right breast.
“The scary thing that people need to know is that I’ve never missed a mammogram. I’d just had one done a month before all of this happened. The cancer was so small it was under the radar. Ten percent of all mammograms don’t pick them up, which isn’t a lot, but when you’re in that 10 percent, it’s a lot,” she says.
In an attempt to prevent progression of the disease, doctors removed 28 lymph nodes from Ganter’s arm. To date (October 2012), she has had six surgeries, 28 radiation sessions, and 24 chemotherapy treatments. The cancer also claimed Ganter’s trademark, Rapunzel-length blonde tresses.
At times, Ganter found herself too weak to lift a pillow, battling pneumonia, allergic reactions, and the ravages of chemotherapy. But her iron will and conviction as a mother carried her through the darkest days.
“My daughter lost her dad when she was 8, and there was just no way I was going to let it kill me and leave her alone at 15. Jackie was my main concern I never let her think for one minute that everything wasn’t going to be OK. I think she always believed me, and that helped me get through it,” she explains.
Now healthy, back in the saddle, and at the top of the 1D, Ganter explains that her priorities have shifted.
“In the past, if I didn’t win, I would’ve been mad. But now, life’s too short. It changed my perspective on what’s important. Now, I have more fun watching my daughter ride and win than I ever had [running myself]. I want her to be competitive, but you wish you could implant in younger people what I’m seeing at my age. That hit barrel is not the end of your world. The end of your world is sitting in a chair, being IV’d with drugs while cancer is trying to kill your body.
“Yesterday, Jackie said, ‘Mom, I just love this summer. We’ve had a great summer.’ I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Life goes on.”
To learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
* This article was originally published in the October 2012 issue of Barrel Horse News. Written by Danika Kent.