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Riding/barn time and chemo

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  • Riding/barn time and chemo

    Earlier this week I found out I have lymphoma. Today I met with the oncologist and will be starting 3 months of chemo next week. She said I should be able to work and do all of my usual activities as tolerated during treatment except when I asked about horses. She said no horseback riding due to the risk of infection, although I straight-up told her I'm still planning on riding.

    Has anyone done chemo and also ridden/spent time around horses or is this a hard and fast rule apparently I was not aware of? I'm a kidney transplant patient of 12 years, so I'm no stranger to being immunocompromised. But I've always ridden, spent time at the barn, mucked stalls, worked at barns etc. She asked me if my horse is vaccinated and I'm like of course he is. I don't know if she is envisioning some backyard farm and flea infested mule or something?? I board my horse at a high end dressage barn, it's not like it's some dusty old shack.

    I am planning on asking the trainer if she has some students that can ride him a few times a week in case physically I am not up for riding. But without any barn time at all, I honestly don't know if I mentally could get through the chemo and radiation. I am getting a port put in next week for the chemo but I don't think that will be an issue. It's winter here and I will be wearing so many layers that port isn't going to be anywhere near a horse. I guess on the plus side, at least my chemo is happening in the winter--I usually only ride 3-4 times a week during the coldest part of winter anyway.

  • #2
    No advice but I'm sorry about your diagnosis and I wish you the best!


    • #3
      I am a two time Hodgkin’s survivor. The first time I was treated w radiation; the second time w chemotherapy. I own a farm and board for others. I worked (off the farm-I have full time help) and rode through both. I did very well until the end of both treatments. I was pretty tired by the end, but even showed some! Best of luck to you!


      • #4
        Adding in that, if you need support, please pm me and we can exchange phone numbers.


        • #5
          I know two people that rode and spent plenty of time at the barn throughout chemo. They skipped days when they weren't feeling up to it, but mostly kept up their normal routine. I know for a fact that one of my friends had a port...I assume the other did but don't know for certain. (Disclaimer that I have no idea how the recommendations might vary for different chemo protocols.)


          • Original Poster

            Thanks for all the words of encouragement. My cancer nurse called me today to go over the chemo stuff in preparation for Friday and the horse thing came up again. She also discouraged me from riding but said we will discuss it with the doctor on Friday. She did tell me that I will need a week or two to recover after the port placement and bone marrow biopsy and I won't be able to lift over 5 pounds that week after. Which is fine. 1-2 weeks of not riding is a lot different than 4 months of not riding. It sounds like their bigger concern is the risk of infection which I just don't understand.

            I did talk to the barn owner/trainer and she is planning on using my horse for some of her lesson students and my friend will also be riding him some for me. So at least he will be ridden and checked in on daily.


            • #7
              So sorry about your diagnosis .... when I didn’t know if I’d have to have chemo my oncologist said I could ride but to wear a mask when grooming! We have a dr that rides at our barn and she’s currently undergoing chemotherapy and rides on her “off treatment weeks”. She also wears a mask for grooming and otherwise no one would ever know!
              Breast cancer survivor!


              • #8
                So sorry to hear that you’re facing chemo. I had six months of chemo in 2013 for early stage breast cancer and another six months in 2015 for stage IV. Both times, I continued riding despite my oncologist’s concerns. Through blood monitoring, I tracked my white cell levels and avoided the barn when my neutrofil counts were low (the nadir of the cycle). With the help of medications like neupogin and neulasta, my counts would bounce back in a few days. The psychological benefits of riding helped me persevere through the rigors of treatment and even my doctors agreed that it was hugely beneficial. I groomed my mare, kissed her and never wore a mask. Good luck and please reach out to me if you have questions or want to talk.


                • #9
                  I have no personal experience to share, (knock wood🤞) but you and all that are sharing their experiences, are my heros!

                  You ladies rock hard core!!! Keep on kicking ass and taking names!!!


                  • #10
                    Chemo for lymphoma can compromise your white cell count and make you vulnerable to bacterial and viral infection. Not that horses carry disease but environment issues like staph salmonella e coli. Also depending on what chemo protocol you potentially have lung compromise for which you should have a good particulate mask for protection. I would not stop horsing around but would pay attention to the vulnerability. I believe there have been threads here about PIC lines
                    -- * > hoopoe
                    Procrastinate NOW
                    Introverted Since 1957


                    • #11
                      Additionally some lymphoma therapies can cause low platelet numbers so clotting my be an issue. I suspect in event of a trauma you may experience a more complicated situation if you clotting profile is altered
                      -- * > hoopoe
                      Procrastinate NOW
                      Introverted Since 1957


                      • #12
                        During my chemo, I really had no energy to ride at all but it was a firm target to back as soon as possible, which helped me. It took me five months to ride again post chemo as I had a fierce treatment.

                        I think the medics are being super cautious, probably because they don't have any equestrian experience. Has anyone ever suggested you avoid dogs and cats? Fellow shoppers in the supermarket aisle? Your co-workers? You are probably more likely to catch something from a fellow human than your horse.

                        My words of advice: listen carefully to your body, do what you feel you can, don't push yourself too hard, take your time.

                        Wishing you well for the future.
                        "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                        • #13
                          when my boss was going thru chemo, a very low grade precaution type chemo ( surgical cure, chemo as a precaution) , it was recommended he have a private office to minimize unnecessary contact, so yes, human isolation is sometimes advised.

                          I suspect the biggest issue of concern will be low white blood cell counts, low platelets and possibly low red blood cell counts all of which are big vulnerabilities. You can talk with your doctor about these issues. In addition if they use Bleomycin, ask about precautions and warning signs for lung issues.

                          Having a list of specific questions is important. Make sure to write down your questions and have someone there to help, and record the answers if possible.

                          if you dont feel you are being heard many time the companies that make the drugs have answer lines where you can also get information.

                          I will hold you in my heart in the days to come.
                          Last edited by hoopoe; Jan. 2, 2020, 11:54 PM.
                          -- * > hoopoe
                          Procrastinate NOW
                          Introverted Since 1957


                          • #14
                            Additionally, if you are still going through BM biopsy they may not have the final drug protocol in hand pending the path review and staging of your specific type of Lymphoma. You will have more information soon. I am wishing you well
                            -- * > hoopoe
                            Procrastinate NOW
                            Introverted Since 1957


                            • #15
                              saitou_amaya , I am a Stage IV lymphoma survivor. I went through 6 chemo treatments, at 4 week intervals, in 2017. My treatment was at the Mayo Clinic.

                              My onocologist told me to continue riding if I wanted to. She prohibited any activity where I might aspirate bacteria - so, cleaning stalls was out (she established this), but riding was OK. And yes, if you have a cat, they don't want you cleaning the litter box, either. Her goal for her patients: "continue your normal life". I did not have a port since the frequency of treatment was so low. I did not have radiation.

                              I continued to ride. Not much, but I did it: like 15 minute simple rides. At this point, my horse was 25, so that was not too hard either. I was lucky: my cancer was caught very early, and through a fluke. I had almost zero side effects, but I did get tired more easily: I napped in the day, which I really never have done. BR was the treatment for me. I did not lose my hair, but it did get thinner, which was predicted. I also had a rare side effect: fluid retention.

                              I found it very helpful to write down all questions and send them ahead of your appointment, through the patient portal. I would ask very clear questions to establish the exact concern, and then work with your dr on how to mitigate the concern. Best wishes for successful treatment! Treatments get better all the time: more effective, and fewer side effects. God bless these biochemists!


                              • #16
                                Maybe a consult with an infectious disease MD who focuses on infectious diseases in cancer, would be helpful. It would be nice to know exactly what activities are highest risk (?e.g., riding in a dusty indoor) and what can be done to lower risk. For example, if certain fungal infections are the concern, maybe you should avoid straw bedding and use bagged shavings


                                • Original Poster

                                  Well I thought I'd come back and update now that I'm a week out from my first chemo. To be honest, the chemo really did kick my ass and I've adjusted my expectations. The first few days after chemo I was too nauseous and tired to even get out of bed or go into work, forget riding a horse. Yesterday was the first day when I am finally starting to feel normal again. But now is the nadir part of the cycle where my white count will drop and frankly as much as I miss my horse I'm not willing to risk it when I am finally just now feeling okay again after a week of misery.

                                  I wanted to be one of those "tough horse chicks" while on chemo but it just ain't happening. Between my friends riding him and the barn owner using him for lessons, my horse is still getting ridden 5 days a week. He seems happy and I've been getting a lot of pictures and videos. Maybe next week when my white count bounces back (hopefully) I will visit him but for now I'm admitting defeat.


                                  • #18
                                    saitou_amaya , thanks for coming back with your update! What's the regimen? RCHOP or something similar? How frequently will you have treatments?


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Originally posted by hillary again View Post
                                      saitou_amaya , thanks for coming back with your update! What's the regimen? RCHOP or something similar? How frequently will you have treatments?
                                      Yeah, it's RCHOP every 21 days for 4 cycles. So I guess 1 cycle down, 3 to go. I'm feeling pretty okay now after 1 week and have a lab/follow-up appointment tomorrow. Depending on what my white count is, I may try to go visit my horse at least. If my white count has kicked the bucket though, I'm just not going to risk it.

                                      Another issue with riding is they ended up putting my port in my femoral vein/thigh area. They had trouble accessing the veins in my neck/chest where they usually put the port. It is still pretty bruised and sore right now.


                                      • #20
                                        saitou_amaya , that port's going to be a limit on riding. I didn't have one. Glad to read that you have more energy now. Hope you get a chance to ask more questions about the concerns your doctor expressed regarding being around horses/riding.