U.S. Dressage Development Coach and Olympic team bronze medalist Charlotte Bredahl is recovering from surgery to remove a melanoma in her brain.
Bredahl, who was in Wellington, Florida, for the season, first noticed something was amiss toward the end of March, when her left foot started dragging.
“It was pretty terrifying because I’ve never experienced anything like it,” she said. “At the time I couldn’t see a doctor, because no one would touch me [because of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic]. Everything was shut down, and all the doctors had basically gone home; there was no way they were going to touch a new patient. I had no options to go on at that particular time. It got a little bit worse, but I was still able to get back. Then it got better all on its own without me doing anything.”
She got in to see a neurologist a month later, and he told her not to worry about it as she was symptom free. On June 13 the symptoms began anew with her left foot while she was teaching a clinic.
“By the time I was done with the clinic I had to get in a wheelchair because I had no use of my left leg,” recalled Bredahl, 63. “It was so weak. I got back into town Sunday night. By Monday it started to travel up the side of my body, not just my leg, but into my upper body and left side. I knew I was in big trouble.”
Tuesday she went in for a scan, and the next day her neurologist told her about the brain tumor and sent her straight to the Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee, Florida. She underwent surgery to remove the melanoma on Friday, June 19.
The operation was a success, and after six days in bed, Bredahl was transferred to a rehabilitation facility for another six days, when much of her movement on her left side started returning.
“The only thing that’s not back or close to normal is my left foot,” she said. “They said it can take up to a year for the nerve to grow together. So I still have this drop foot. I can walk around without a walker now [inside the house] and be stable, which has made me very happy. I’m careful of course; outside the house I use a walker.”
On her doctor’s recommendation Bredahl decided to fly back to her Santa Ynez Valley ranch in California. A friend started a fundraiser to help her get a private flight to California to minimize her exposure to COVID-19.
“Within five minutes of that happening, I got a call from some incredible people who wanted to stay private who said, ‘When do you want to go? What time do you want to go?’ ” she said. “The outpouring of love and support has given me so much strength it’s unbelievable.”
She flew to Santa Barbara, half an hour from her ranch, where she continued rehab on her own and continued making improvement. On July 13 she had her stitches removed, and she arranged to begin a course of immunotherapy, which has very good results treating her type of cancer.
Bredahl isn’t planning to travel for a while, but she’s ready to begin training haul-ins at her ranch.
“As far as my job as development coach, I will continue to do a lot of video reviews with everybody and meetings and goal setting, just keeping in touch with everybody,” she said. “I can do that just like I always have. Now with Pixio I can start teaching lessons that way.
“I feel like I can really do my job, just being here and at the same time going through with the [immunotherapy] treatments,” she continued. “It makes me happy that I can be productive. I like to be busy and productive. That’s my personality. I feel really good about the plans and the people and the teams around me. I cannot begin to thank everyone for the love and support.”