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Research Nurse Katherine (Katy) Gordon-Quayle is raising funds for Cancer Trials Ireland and the OPAL (Oxford Pancreatic and Liver) Fund by riding in a charity horse race on Pat Smullen Race Day at the Curragh in Ireland. Here she explains why she is undertaking such a momentous challenge.

Katy riding around a horse arena.

Pat Smullen was one of the greatest jockeys to ride. His record speaks for itself. He was also a man with family and friends; diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This is a situation I work with more often than most. 

The majority of people when you mention pancreatic cancer seem to know ‘it’s a bad one’. But they don’t quite get it. They haven’t seen the impact it has on patients and their family. They haven’t been with people as they live with the disease and endure the treatments that are, to be blunt, fairly tortuous and not that effective. 

Of course, there are situations when treatment does work, thankfully, but they are the minority. The majority of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have a hard road to follow. This has changed little over the past 50 or 60 years unlike other diseases, where we can say, almost confidently, ‘you have cancer but don’t worry, we can make you better’. 

Because I have seen how these people’s lives work out, and what they and their families have to endure, my aim, each day is to make it a bit better for them. Short term, that is what my job as a research nurse is about. I am there to support these people, however that looks for them. Yes, of course, many of them are on trials, but that is just organising and filling in forms. They know that I will always pick up the ‘phone and do whatever I can to help them in that moment. 

The ones who do support our trials and research are paving the way for the future, where one day we will say ‘you have pancreatic cancer, but don’t worry. We will make you better’. 

It is only research that will change this. I am lucky enough to work with the people actually doing this research, and it is amazing. What drives this though, is funding and awareness. Which is why I am planning to ride in a race on 26 August. 

My initial reaction, when given the opportunity to ride in the inaugural Pat Smullen Charity Race was ‘absolutely not. I am too old, not fit enough, have not ridden in a race for nearly 20 years, and clearly wasn’t good enough back then to make it as a jockey’. 

I am giving this my everything so that we will make a difference - Katy

On reflection, I realised, its not about me. Its about supporting what I care about, and that is making a difference in the future. 

It is no small undertaking! Riding in a race is like no other type of riding. You will never be fit enough, even if you are riding in races every day, it challenges you to the end of your stamina. 

To partner with a horse, who is half a ton, wanting to run as fast as they possibly can, on a racecourse is of course exhilarating, but also takes some nerve. Especially when you are 40 and thought you had retired years ago….!

I am doing everything I can to not just complete this, but do it to the absolute best of my ability. 

Running, gyming, riding as many horses as I can, watching all of the great races and great jockeys at the Curragh on YouTube!

I am giving this my everything so that we will make a difference. I am so grateful to all of you who can support me in doing so by sharing the story to spread awareness and helping to raise funds where you can.

Thank you. 

Katy riding with another jockey on the gallop.

If you would like to donate, please visit Katy's fundraising page. Any donation will be gratefully received.

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