Anne McGrath is well remembered for her celebrations in 2007 when 100/1 pop Tears I Cry, whom she owned and bred, shot clear to win the Group 1 Emirates Stakes - what isn’t as well known is her battle with breast cancer. As part of Friday's Breast Cancer Network Australia Race Night, we took time out to speak with Anne this week, who is now herself a trainer in her own right.
“I thought I was goner” is how Anne McGrath describes it when, in September 2012, her life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Breast cancer had claimed the life of her grandmother and there were times when Anne thought it might beat her too.
“There were days when I could barely walk to get the mail, but I was determined to keep fighting and challenge myself to keep active as much as I could,” the Warrnambool horse trainer said.
Keeping fighting she did. Anne kept ‘poking along’ with her small team of horses, still riding them when she could and fulfilling her job as a clerk of the course.
“I’d try plan my treatment period around the racedays so I could keep doing it.
“I looked forward to riding the horses even though some days I was as crook as a dog, but they were a total necessity for me to keep going… there’s no doubt they knew I wasn’t well and didn’t try to push their limits,” McGrath explained.
When she wasn’t riding horses, McGrath was approached to take up keynote speaking about her battles, taking her Australia wide.
McGrath’s treatment went on for 12 months before she was given the all clear. Those people that gave her the all clear, including her nurses, doctors and colleagues, would later go on to race a horse with Anne named Kickin’ Kemo.
“It was hard enough to get the name approved but that was where my luck must’ve run out, because she wasn’t any good,” laughed McGrath.
And McGrath’s advice to women.
“I can’t say how important it is to get regular check-up’s and if you are one of the unlucky ones that gets diagnosed, challenge yourself – be busy and as active as possible and keep fighting.”
Anne now looks after her team of three racehorses that includes her seasoned jumper Mannertone, but it’s his full brother that she’s most excited about and planning a trip to The Valley down the track.
“He’s named Hammer ‘N’ Tone and owned by some of the people that were in Kickin’ Kemo and I think he’ll be a really nice horse.
“Hopefully he gets us there (The Valley), I love the track and was lucky enough that Tears I Cry won there and was just beaten in a Crystal Mile,” McGrath said.
Whether or not McGrath’s plan comes to fruition, it’s a good bet that she’s already a winner in life.