Christine Erikson has been a member of the Gig Harbor community since 1997, when she and her husband, Thor, moved to the area from Southern California.
Originally from Sweden, Erikson, 55, has been riding horses since age 6 and has spent the last decade becoming more active with the animals and sport that she loves.
“Horses are my passion. I live, I breathe, I think horses,” Erikson said. “It fills a lot of different aspects of my life.”
A dressage rider, Erikson spent the spring and summer competing with her trainer’s horse, Allegria (nicknamed Ally), and qualified for the United States Dressage Federation/Great American Insurance Group (USDF/GAIG) Region 6 Championships in September.
I was blindsided by (the diagnosis) because I am healthy. I don’t have a history of breast cancer in my family.
Then, on July 26, a hurdle was thrown in the path of Erikson’s forward momentum after a routine mammogram resulted in diagnosis for stage 1 breast cancer.
“I was blindsided by it because I am healthy,” she said. “I don’t have a history of breast cancer in my family.”
But Erikson would not be deterred from her goal of competing. A lumpectomy was scheduled for Aug. 26 and, with the surgery a success, she focused on healing and heading to her September competition with the support of her medical team.
“It helped me to focus on something else,” she said. “Even though it’s a devastating thing to hear ‘you have cancer,’ it puts another spin on life.”
On Sept. 20, Erikson took first place in the musical freestyle at the Region 6 Championships at Donida Farm in Auburn, earning her invitation to the National Championships in Lexington, Kentucky, Nov. 10 to 13.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I just felt compelled that I had to figure this out,” she said. “For me it’s like going to the Olympics. I’ve never done anything this big. I’m very excited and also a little scared.”
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I just felt compelled that I had to figure this out. For me it’s like going to the Olympics. I’ve never done anything this big. I’m very excited and also a little scared.
Erikson started radiation treatments earlier this month and continues to practice with Ally and her trainer, Beth Anderson-Ness, owner of Starr Valley Farm.
“She’s one of my biggest supporters in all this,” Erikson explained. Anderson-Ness will be going to the national competition with her and Ally.
Along with her training and treatments, Erikson is raising money to cover the $8,000 cost associated with the competition, with a travel grant from the USDF Region 6 helping to smooth the way a bit. The big fundraiser for Erikson’s trip is the Kentucky Fundraiser Auction scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 22) at Starr Valley Farm.
In addition to Saturday’s event, Erikson has also set up a GoFundMe account — Road to Kentucky 2016 — and an online auction for those who can’t attend this weekend. A Facebook page — Road to Kentucky 2016 — will provide updates from Erikson on her trip and health as she continues through her radiation treatment; her last scheduled for one week before she leaves for Kentucky.
There’s something in this bigger picture that compels me to tell this story. I’m hoping there’s someone I can reach who this will help.
“The support in all kinds of ways has been absolutely amazing,” Erikson said. “It brought together the horse community and my friends. They just rallied up.”
Erikson said that her husband, Thor, and son Derek, 18, have also been supportive of her competing and excited for her chance in Kentucky.
But more than her opportunity to compete, Erikson wants to share her story and experience to give hope and encouragement to other women facing a breast cancer diagnosis.
“There’s something in this bigger picture that compels me to tell this story,” she said. “I’m hoping there’s someone I can reach who this will help.”
Road to Kentucky 2016
Erikson’s Kentucky Fundraiser Auction is 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 22) at Starr Valley Farm, 19110 Bay Road in Longbranch.
Erikson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on her GoFundMe “Road to Kentucky 2016” account or through her “Road to Kentucky 2016” Facebook page.