IN THE SADDLE: Nicki Stanier with her beloved horses Red Rose and Lillie. She aims to ride 500 miles on them to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.
IN THE SADDLE: Nicki Stanier with her beloved horses Red Rose and Lillie. She aims to ride 500 miles on them to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

A BRAVE breast cancer survivor is hoping to “give something back” five years after being diagnosed with the disease.

Horse loving Nicki Stanier, from Woodland, is organising a 500-mile riding challenge to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. She says she wants to celebrate her 50th birthday by “doubling and smashing the amount of cash” she has already raised. This time she wants to involve her horses.

Mrs Stanier, who keeps and breeds champion coloured ponies, said: “It’s got all the fives really.

“I turn 50 on March 5 and it will be five years since I got the diagnosis. It would be great to think I could ride 500 miles and raise £5,000 in my 50th year.”

Mrs Stanier was first diagnosed with melanoma 18 years ago and since then has had 13 operations to remove moles and suspected lesions.

Then five years ago, shortly after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s – a bowel disease which causes inflammation of the intestines and inhibits nutrient absorption – Mrs Stanier was also told she had grade three breast cancer.

She said: “I’ve made no secret about the cancer and have lots of friends that have become more aware of what to look out for because of what I’m going through and talking about it.”

Mrs Stanier had to undergo a double mastectomy to remove two large tumours and 18 weeks of chemotherapy as well as lymph clearance, reconstructive surgery and will continue to receive hormone therapy for the next five years.

And four years ago, only a week after finishing a course of chemotherapy, she completed the Race for Life five kilometre run at Durham with her daughters Rowen and Megan, raising around £5,000 for Cancer Research UK.

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She said: “This is part two. This is my way of giving something back. I always said when I was diagnosed I would be vocal about my cancer journey and I want to encourage more people to stay positive.

“I just want to raise money for Cancer Research UK and give something back because I would not be here without the research and that can’t happen without the funding to do so.”

She added: “I was on so many steroids for Crohn’s disease I gained seven stones in weight. I was on such a massive amount I also developed steroid myopathy, which causes muscles to weaken and with the chemotherapy I lost all of my hair. All the way through I still worked with the horses and rode and I developed a motto, ‘never give up, never give in’.”

A rheumatoid consultant was shocked at the extent of the muscle wastage and said he was surprised to see she was not in a wheelchair, never mind still managing to get on top of a horse.

Mrs Stanier, said: “I live with the fear that the cancer could come back and I live with Crohn’s every day of my life. One of the things which kept me going was my horses. Just before I was diagnosed I bought my coloured pony, Red Rose, who I call my therapy pony.”

To raise funds for Cancer Research UK Mrs Stanier had intended to ride the 500-mile Pennine Bridleway. However, because of the logistics of getting the horses to the locations she had decided to do some of those miles locally in Teesdale. She said: “The problem I have is my husband, David, works abroad and my children have flown the nest now and I am the only one who can pull the horse box. So it makes it a bit difficult.

“My intention is to ride some parts of the Pennine Bridleway and some parts of it locally in Teesdale. I’m thinking of getting a pink tabard or a jacket with “Never Give Up, Never Give In” embroidered on it, so people will know when they see me out what I’m doing.” She plans to start the ride by completing the Settle loop of the bridleway in March when she will be accompanied by her husband who will be on two wheels rather than on horseback because he doesn’t ride.

Mrs Stanier has set up a justgiving webpage and she is hoping to raise even more money for Cancer Research UK.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can by visiting justgiving/fundraising/team-stanier-stamp-out-cancer