For Melissa Dobbs of the District, the worst part of having breast cancer is losing control over how she feels and when she feels it. Her chemotherapy regimen makes her weak and sick, particularly on the third day after treatment. Dobbs's antidote to the accompanying anxiety and uncertainty: saddling up her thoroughbred mare, Izzie.
"When I'm riding, I don't think about anything else," says the former Fulbright scholar, who works as a media analyst for the Saudi embassy. "Not the state of the world, not the state of my health, whether my house is clean or my checkbook balances."
At least five days a week, Dobbs makes it to Izzie's stable in Silver Spring. When she's too sick to ride, she still visits.
"When you own a horse, it's like a child. You can't stay home because you feel tired or sick. You have to get up, go out. And the truth is, you always feel better when you do."
Competing in dressage and jumping, Dobbs says, also gives her something besides illness to occupy her mind. "There's a sense of accomplishment that comes with each day," she says. "It gives me a goal. This is sanctuary."
Dobbs completed her eighth and last chemotherapy session last week. She plans to have a mastectomy in November.
-- Lois Raimondo