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Every once in a while, someone enters our lives whose life story resonates with us.  Maybe it is the struggles they have faced and overcome, or a new challenge that they have taken on with perseverance and gusto.  Diane White fits into both of these categories, and it is her story that I feel privileged to share.

I first met Diane when she came to the barn to meet Flynn, my daughter’s horse whom I was selling.  Diane’s gregarious personality was evident from the second I met her.  She came into the barn like a warm breeze, melting the chill that had settled on the barn that cool day in March.  Diane approached Flynn as one would greet an old friend, and Flynn immediately responded.  Within minutes I knew that Flynn had found his forever home.

Almost immediately, Diane lay all her cards on the table.  She was looking for a gentle soul, a companion and friend to see her through middle age and beyond.   She was not, she confessed, an advanced rider, but rather someone much like myself who had dabbled in horses as a youth until life got in the way.  So, what was it, I wondered, that had taken her away from her passion, and what event had brought her back here?  When Diane’s hand reached up to stroke Flynn’s mane, he lowered his head and breathed a deep sign as though he had been anxiously awaiting her presence in his life.  As her hand gently moved down Flynn’s neck and along the prominent spine of his back, Diane gave me a glimpse into what had brought her to this moment in time.

Like many of us middle-age horse lovers, Diane’s passion had succumbed to the demands of job and family.  By the time she was in her mid-30s, Diane was a busy working mom with two young sons.  Until one day, when she received a diagnosis that would change her life forever: leukemia.  Over lunch the other day, Diane told me that her primary concern during this time was for her sons.  The thought of them growing up without a mother was beyond devastating, and she was prepared to fight as hard as she could for as long as she could.  Her aggressive treatment included chemotherapy and a much-anticipated bone marrow transplant which was regarded as her best hope.  The transplant left her feeling weak, and when it failed to put her into remission Diane was heartbroken.  Her oncologist suggested that she try another transplant but, still reeling from the side effects of the last one, Diane declined.  Knowing that without a successful transplant she had about a month left to live, Diane set about saying good-bye to her loving family and friends.  Luckily Diane had a doctor who was not ready to give up, and as a last attempt he put her on a cocktail of experimental drugs.  That cocktail, together with a whole lot of prayers, put Diane into the remission that she had been hoping for.

Despite her doctor’s warning that remission would likely only last for a month or less, Diane is cancer free more than twenty years later.  As is commonly stated among cancer survivors, Diane is grateful to her illness for opening her eyes to what is truly precious in life.  Her love of life and all of its complexities is contagious, her experience reminding all of us to never take life for granted.  Her prioritizing includes volunteering with Purple Pony, an equine therapy program for disabled children and adults.  For Diane, life is richer if you share it with a horse, and so she drove the almost two hours to meet the horse that would become her adoring companion.

Diane has not let her illness, her age, or other setbacks stand in the way of pursuing her equine dream.  She is an example to all of us that we don’t stop living simply because we get older.  Let us all live our lives as though today maybe our last; love more and ride horses.

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