Racing for a Cure: A Filly's Fight Against Breast Cancer

By Jennifer Wirth, of The Saturday Post

When I was a twenty-year-old college student, I paid a visit home to my mother one weekend. 

It wasn’t your typical visit home from college.

The reason I had come home that weekend was because my mother had just undergone one of her many chemotherapy treatments in her fight to survive breast cancer. 

When I arrived at her hospital bed, she had lost the fiery red hair that made her easy to spot whenever I looked for her as a kid.  She was bald and pale as a ghost now. 

She had also lost the joyful presence that she carries into any room.  She was tired now.  You could see the pain that she was suffering in her eyes and it was absolutely heartbreaking.    

In my mind, she was dying of breast cancer.  I remember being a young student walking up to the nurse station and saying to them, “Do Something.”  Just do anything.  But sadly, as many other families know, there is only so much that medicine can do in these moments.

Yet, thirteen years later, my wish for someone to “Do Something” has been answered in a beautiful turnaround of events. 

As for my mother, she is among the lucky women that have been fortunate to survive breast cancer.  I am happy to report that her joyful presence has returned and she has regrown her red hair that makes her easy to find in any crowd.   And, my favorite place to find her today is in survivor walks to help find a cure for breast cancer.

However, she isn’t the only redhead who is doing something in the future for breast cancer.

Thirteen years after my mother became a “survivor,” a redheaded filly showed up.  And, this filly is also hoping to “Do Something” that contributes to a cure for breast cancer in her own domain – the race track.

West Point Thoroughbreds currently plans to race a two-year-old chestnut filly that will be donating a share of her winnings to support finding a cure for breast cancer.  When the filly begins racing, 2.5 percent of any of her winnings will be donated to a breast cancer charity.  West Point will also provide a 2.5 percent matching donation whenever the filly wins a race.   

So, you may wonder, what inspired West Point Thoroughbreds to race a filly for breast cancer?  Simple. 

It hit home at the company.

As Shannon Castagnola of West Point Thoroughbreds explained, “We are a small company.  There are eleven full-time employees, but seven are women.”  She continued, “Breast cancer awareness is something we must all confront at some point or another.  It could be your mother, aunt, your sister, or your wife.” 

Castagnola noted, “My mother was diagnosed 5 ½ years ago, in October of 2005.”  After seeing the “Think Pink” Breast Cancer initiative on Oaks Day, Castagnola recognized that breast cancer awareness was a cause that racing could benefit.  She explained, “I remember clearly looking out at the Oaks crowd last year, seeing an absolute sea of pink, and thinking ‘They get it, they want to embrace this cause.’”

And, in the end, West Point Thoroughbreds has embraced breast cancer awareness with the one beautiful filly.  When I asked Castagnola about the filly’s demeanor, she said “She’s a big, strong filly and she has a great mind.” 

In my view, there couldn’t be a more perfect way for a racehorse to start out a campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer. 

The filly is currently nameless – just like many of the women in the statistics that we see about breast cancer.  But, when she hits the home stretch in her first race, many racegoers will hopefully know her name and her reason for racing.  She will be adorned with pink silks, according to Castagnola.

So, in the end, just like my mother in the survivor parade, there is one more redhead that I can spot in a crowd that answered my call to “Do Something.” 

And, with her pink silks and strong build, I hope to spot the redheaded filly in the same place where a find my mother today. 

I hope to see her in the winner’s circle.

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