Like dozens of other young foxhunters across the country, Isabelle Powers of Midland Fox Hounds (GA) worked hard to qualify for the Junior North American Field Hunter Championships earlier this month. Simply being able to compete at the finals was a tremendous victory for her, her mother Lisa, and their support team, though: Isabelle had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in April, and underwent taxing chemotherapy treatment through the late spring and summer.
Isabelle, right, made friends with Taylor Overman of Farmington Hunt at the JNAFHC in Virginia. M. Drum photo.
Lisa described how soreness in her daughter's jaw and neck - initially attributed to wisdom teeth - led to the discovery of several clusters in her neck and collarbone areas. She began treatment in May, and was declared in remission in September. While the outcome was positive, "The chemotherapy itself was grueling - she had to be hospitalized for three days to take her chemo, because she would become so ill." Isabelle added that simply being too tired to participate in all her favorite activities, along with some hair loss, were the hardest parts of the process for her.
The JNAFHC finals were a motivation, though: Two years ago, riding Mason Lampton's Bandit, she'd finished seventh. Last year, she qualified for the finals, but did not place on her own horse, Haley. This year, looking over her therapy appointments and the schedule of qualifying meets, she and her mother realized the window of opportunity to return to riding and make it to the finals was very small. "Really wanting to come back here and compete again was a big goal for me," said Isabelle. Having just turned 18, this was the last year she could compete in the junior event.
Isabelle was only cleared to ride in October. Once again partnered with Bandit, she was able to qualify after just a couple weeks back in the saddle. Her friends and barn family, as well as the Midland community, were all supportive. "My friends really encouraged me the most," Isabelle said, "That's what helped me stay focused on getting better." Lisa explained, "She held onto this as something to look forward to, to come back to for her third time."
While Isabelle did not make the cutoff for the top ten in her large First Field division, she felt a huge sense of accomplishment just to have participated in the finals. With a good prognosis, she's looking toward the future - and motivated to consider a career as an oncology nurse. She and her mother are looking at potential college programs that will enable her to prepare for this career. She has already demonstrated the determination and courage to achieve her goals.