For Haley Bergman, working with her horse Bo and competing in the Huron County Fair is part of her therapy to combat the cancer she's been fighting for two years.
The 15-year-old managed to compete in the 2006 Huron County Fair even though she wasn't able to attend school. Now she's back for 2007 and hoping to go from the fair back to classes as a freshman at Willard High School.
"Having her horse is what's made it easier for her to get through it," said Sophie Bergman, Haley's mother. "She wouldn't have been as positive if she hadn't had her horse."
Haley was diagnosed with soft-tissue cancer in her bone marrow, sternum, back, pelvic area and lungs in the fall of 2005. Doctors kept her out of school for the past two years because her cancer and treatments made it dangerous for her to be exposed to any contagious illnesses such as the common cold or the flu. She kept up her education through Internet courses and a tutor.
After two years of constant worry, Haley's mother is now optimistic. "They won't say she's in remission yet, but all of her tests have come back clear the last couple of times," she said.
The ordeal isn't over for Haley since she has to take treatments at home three times a week and travel to Akron once a month for treatment. But she always has Bo.
"He kept me going," Haley said. When all of her friends were busy with school and school activities, she spent more time with Bo. "He keeps me company."
And she has the fair. Sophie said the chance to compete at the fair was a goal for Haley last year. "Last summer, what she looked forward to was going to the Huron County Fair," Sophie said.
Competing in the fair last year was a struggle, but Sophie said she knew Haley needed it. "Last year she lost about 35 pounds and was pretty weak and we had to watch her blood counts because she was in the hospital about every three weeks," Sophie said. "But I think her horse knew that she was sick." Sophie said, because he did everything Haley asked.
Haley's parents bought Bo when he was 3 years old and she has trained him with the help of a trainer and the Trailblazers 4-H Club.
This year will be Haley's fifth year of competition with Bo. She will compete in English, equestrian and Western pleasure classes, English and Western horsemanship, Western pleasure and trail classes, English and Western showmanship and the gymkhana classes of barrels, flag race, cones and barrels, pole bending and speed and control.
Sophie said Haley doesn't expect to win, but simply enjoys the chance to compete. "He's not very fast, but she said she's going to do it all," Sophie said.
As a mother, Sophie said she's content to see her daughter enjoying life. "When you see them so sick, it's really hard," she said. "But this is a lot better than being in the hospital once a month."
Sophie also said the support of the staff at Akron Children's Hospital has been great. "The clinic up at Akron worked her schedule so her counts were at the highest level and gave her a week off," Sophie said. One nurse even traveled to Huron County to watch Haley perform last year and will do the same this year.
"They become like part of your family up there," Sophie said.
Sophie said if Haley's progress continues, her treatments may be cut down to only two a week in October.
Even though she'll be back in school, Haley said she will still spend time with Bo. "I ride him as often as I can."