When she was just 13 years old, Tabitha Wood – Tabby – was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer.
Now 15 years old and in remission, she has so far raised over £22,000 for Leeds General Infirmary’s teenage cancer ward and Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony, a charity which grants equine wishes for people who are seriously ill.
Most of what Tabby has raised came from a 250 mile bike ride from London to Leeds during the summer, with her dad Adrian and brother Ben. This has proven to be the catalyst for Tabby to establish her own charity.
Tabby said: “I feel well now and it meant a lot to be able to do the cycle ride. When I was on the cancer ward, everyone looked a bit sad and I thought it would be nice to have something which would take their minds off things, like iPads. And I really love horses and I know how much horses have helped me in my recovery, so I wanted to give back to a charity which makes wishes come true for people who love horses and are ill.
Since then, with my friends at Bradford Grammar School and my family, we’ve thought of new challenges. That’s what gave me the idea to set up a charity, so we can carry on fundraising and help other children who have cancer.”
Tabby’s diagnosis came from the symptoms of simply feeling tired and a lump in her stomach. She had an operation to remove a tumour the size of a melon. Her mum, Sarah, said:
“The doctors didn’t know how she’d shown so few symptoms. The diagnosis was quite a lot for someone so young to take in; it was very tough for everyone. The NHS was on it from the very first day we went and the Bradford Grammer School family put us in touch with Professor Michael Seckl, a world expert in Tabby’s cancer.
Throughout it all, Tabby just got on with it. She never, ever said ‘why me?’ For a 15-year-old to then achieve something like this is amazing. We’re so proud of her.”
During her recovery, a focus for Tabby was being well enough to ride her pony again. In July, she and her pony Brandini represented England at the under 25 dressage Home International and the British Dressage Youth Inter-Regional Rider Championships. She finished in 9th place.
What was next? Well, Tabby and brother Ben came up with the challenge of the London to Leeds bike ride, which saw Professor Seckl waving the team off on what turned out to be a six day event. They cycled up to 53 miles a day, using an app for their route and supported by mum Sarah, driving the family motorhome.
Tabby explained: “It was a big challenge, so it was quite daunting, especially because I’d never even ridden a bike on the road until five weeks before we set off! During the ride it was tough, and the heat didn’t help. I just kept going and thinking about how every mile I did was raising money for these great charities.”
Now in remission, Tabby has to have blood tests every two months and scans every three months, so the LGI is keeping a close eye on her health. She’s looking forward to presenting her cheques to her chosen charities, having surpassed the original target of £10,000 and actually raised £22,500. They were helped by Tabby’s classmates, who raised £325 from a bake sale and sports day.
Headmaster of Bradford Grammar School, Dr Simon Hinchliffe, said: “Tabby is a true inspiration to all of us and she is the living embodiment of our school motto, Hoc Age, which translates as ‘get on and do’. She is a credit to the school. We are all very proud of her.”
If you would like to donate to Tabby’s charity, please visit here.
Photographs provided by Stride. Feature photographs shows – left to right – Brother Ben, Tabby, Professor Seckl and dad Adrian.
Helen’s interests are wide-ranging, from food to music to art and comedy. She is especially keen on writing about local charitable activity and events as well as the opportunities the City Region has to offer to those with hidden talents.