Professional groom reveals how brain tumour was sniffed out by her horse

A professional groom has told how her horse helped saved her life by helping detect a brain tumour.
Kelly Ann Alexander with AliyanaKelly Ann Alexander with Aliyana
Kelly Ann Alexander with Aliyana

Kelly Ann Alexander says her horse Aliyana sniffed at the right side of her head when she started having seizures.

Tests revealed a slow-growing tumour which was removed in surgery. Mrs Alexander, from Blackburn, was told by doctors she might never walk or talk again.

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She suffered a major setback when she found out the tumour had come back.

Kelly Ann scar after surgeryKelly Ann scar after surgery
Kelly Ann scar after surgery

But 43-year-old says Aliyana keeps her going and is the reason she got back on her feet after “gruelling” treatment.

Now she has spoken out ahead of Brain Tumour Awareness month in March, and is supporting Brain Tumour Research to call for more funding for research.

Mrs Alexander first became ill in October 2015 after she had taken up her dream job as a groom in a professional yard.

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She was competing in a dressage competition with Aliyana, an Irish sports horse, when she first knew something wasn’t right. Days later after a seizure she was rushed to hospital but was discharged after symptoms were wrongly diagnosed.

Kelly Ann AlexanderKelly Ann Alexander
Kelly Ann Alexander

Her condition got so bad she was having up to 15 seizures a day.

Then her life turned upside down. She was admitted to St John’s hospital in Livingston where tests revealed a brain tumour, a slow growing oligodendroglioma.

Mrs Alexander, now 43, had surgery but later contracted a serious infection that required replacing part of her skull.

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The former HGV driver was told by doctors she might not walk or talk again. But she was determined to regain the strength to get back to riding.

“My bond with Aliyana made me determined to recover as quickly as possible. Doctors had told me I wouldn’t be able to ride for a year, but I was actually back in the saddle after just seven months. I trusted Aliyana would look after me and I’ve found she always seems to know when I’m tired and works extra hard for me. She’s the best therapy I could have.”

Two years after her surgery, Kelly Ann was devastated to find out the tumour had regrown.

"It was a shock to discover that the tumour had reoccurred," Kelly Ann said.

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"I had radiotherapy and then chemo but the best therapy for me is being with Aliyana, I have good and bad days but when I’m with her I forget about my health. Along with my husband Kevin, she keeps me going, she gives me a reason to get up every morning.”

She has created a video for charity Brain Tumour Research asking people to sign its petition calling for more funding.

The deadly disease is the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40 but only 1 per cent of the national spend on cancer research goes to brain tumours.

Kelly Ann said: “I’m determined to make the most of whatever the future holds for me, my husband and my beloved horse. The uncertainty makes it very difficult for my mental health though, and I’m having to take things very slowly.

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“Brain tumour research is badly underfunded and treatments are gruelling. The government must commit to spending more to help scientists find effective treatments – that are hopefully also less debilitating – and one day, a cure.”

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