Cancer survivor receives gift horse
By Ken Jackson
For St. Cloud’s Ashley Sammon, the last few months have been a big improvement over the year and a half that came before it.
Make-A-Wish partnered with Billy Kidd Cutting Horses in Kenansville and gave Ashley Sammon, already a cancer survivor at age 15, a brand new cutting horse during a presentation in front of a crowd of thousands at the Silver Spurs Arena.
She’s put a major health scare behind her, and at the June 6 performance of the Silver Spurs Rodeo, she became the owner of a new horse, thanks to the efforts of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and an Osceola County horse trainer.
Make-A-Wish partnered with Billy Kidd Cutting Horses in Kenansville and gave Sammon, already a cancer survivor at age 15, a brand new cutting horse during a presentation in front of a crowd of thousands at the Silver Spurs Arena.
Callie, a dark brown mare officially named Gracefull Lights, was trained by Billy Kidd and his daughter Skylar and shown at the National Cutting Horse Association’s Futurity championship event.
Receiving the horse, a surprise for Sammon on Friday, was easily the second best news she’s heard since her diagnosis some 18 months ago, behind only hearing that her type of cancer, high-grade Spindle Cell sarcoma, was in remission.
“This was an incredible surprise,” she said. “Callie is a horse I could never afford, she’s the Cadillac of horses. I want to thank Billy, Jodi (Overstreet Kidd), Skylar (Kidd, Billy’s wife and daughter), Carrie Burgess with Make-A-Wish and Wendi Jeannin with Silver Spurs for making this possible.”
Her ordeal began around Thanksgiving 2012, when she experienced severe pain in her chest. She was referred to a specialist at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, and after a handful of consults and biopsies, doctors concluded a mass under her skin was the cancerous sarcoma, which had attacked the muscle in her abdomen.
“The doctors said it was ferocious and large,” said Sammon, who said both her mother and grandmother had fought and defeated breast cancer in their 30s. “It’s not even genetic. This has made us a strong family, but even my mom got emotional.”
Shortly after the diagnosis, Sammon underwent a partial mastectomy followed by numerous chemotherapy treatments and more surgeries over the next several months in Orlando. The treatments never dented her will to beat the disease. On the hospital white board in her room at Arnold Palmer, she wrote, “It could always be worse,” as a daily reminder.
“When you go through this, you have an oncologist, a radiation nurse and a big group of doctors,” she said. “I’m grateful for them, they became like family because I essentially lived at the hospital for weeks at a time. And my best friend Ashlynn came and slept in the hospital room with me a few days at a time, which I can’t thank her enough for.”
While putting up the fight of her life, Sammon served as the Silver Spurs’ grand marshall in 2013, and rode in the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo Grand Entry.
Through all the treatments and surgeries, Sammon beat the odds and is now in remission. Her regular check-ups are now only required every six months.
“They still keep a very close eye on me because of our family history,” she said. “Anytime something is out of the ordinary I get it checked out right away.”
Kidd said he had wanted to work with Make-A-Wish to provide help to someone local who had the prospect of a terminal diagnosis. His wife, Jodie Overstreet Kidd, is a cancer survivor herself. Sammon had been taking riding lessons with Billy, long after filling out her paperwork with the charitable organization, so thoughts of getting her wish had been replaced by thoughts of, well, beating cancer.
“It just seemed like a natural fit,” Kidd said. “And Ashley’s a pretty easy girl to like.”
Fast forward to June 6, when thanks to the Silver Spurs and the Kidd family, the club had the honor of granting Sammon her wish to have a sorting horse. Callie joins Missy, a mare Sammon rides in barrel racing, to the family barn.
“Because of what happened I didn’t have time to race barrels, but I’m hoping to have more time for it now,” she said. “Because of the muscle I lost, I’m having to re-learn how to do a lot of things.”