Day At The Track

Shane bounces back with an emotional win

04:00 PM 14 Aug 2019 NZST
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Shane Smith,Harness racing
Shane Smith

To outsiders, it may have seemed like an unremarkable win for harness racing trainer-driver Shane Smith when his pacer Tianischoice saluted at Mildura recently.

But for Smith and his wife Sharon, it really couldn't have been more significant or emotional, marking the couple's first race victory since Shane overcame a prolonged battle with cancer.

Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma three years ago, life is only now returning to something resembling "normality" for the former Broken Hill couple, who've had a "horse or two" in work for most of the past 30 years.

"In hindsight, it was a bit sad because when we lost a close friend suddenly and unexpectedly five years ago, it was a bit of a wakeup call. That was really the reason we decided to make the move from Broken Hill to Mildura," Sharon said.

"We had been thinking about it for a long time, but when we lost her, it really made us think that life can be short, and we should do what we want to," she said.

"So we bought a property in Mildura three years ago - and virtually straight after that, as we were preparing to move, Shane was diagnosed in February 2016."

It left the couple trying to manage two properties, an interstate move and some tough decisions, all while Shane was starting his cancer treatment.

"It was a huge shock and really everything else just went into the background," Shane said.

"I was having chemotherapy and going through all that, Sharon was back here trying to run the property - the timing wasn't the best!" he said.

"We were moving here to have a fresh start and to do some of the things we had wanted to do for a long time, and that really just got turned upside down."

Needless to say, horses went on the backburner. Chemotherapy slowed the progress of the disease, but ultimately it didn't stop it and Shane was placed on a second round of treatment. It was a trial of stem-cell therapy at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, and Shane was one of the early patients to undergo the process in Australia.

"It was a pretty difficult time and one of the worst things was having to be kept as isolated as possible during the treatment because of the risk of Shane catching something," Sharon said.

"So that meant very little contact with family and friends. We had a new grandson born just a month before Shane was diagnosed so we missed a lot of time with him," she said.

"But ultimately, the treatment was successful and in January this year we got the news that we wanted to hear, that Shane was cancer-free."

Not surprisingly, life has taken some time to return to "normal", and horses didn't necessarily take first priority.

Sharon and Shane Smith   

The couple developed horse infrastructure on their property, including a track, and are training a small team, mostly for Broken Hill owners.

"It takes a while for you to start thinking about life without the cancer hanging over your head, and we had a lot to do before we started thinking about horses," Sharon said.

"Catching up on lost time with family and our grandchildren, Matilda, Wyatt and Tommy was the most important thing to us, and we did plenty of that!" she said.

"But it really did feel good to us to be back doing those routine things with the horses."

Shane also had to regain his licence in Victoria, completing 15 trial drives to do so. He got back to the trials in April and returned to race driving in July.

And it was a case of first night back, and first win. Smith warmed up to the task with one drive at his comeback meeting at Mildura, before saluting on Tianischoice (Dream Away- Willow Bend (Armbro Aussie) later in the night, for friend and Broken Hill owners Alan and Trudy Rennie.

"It was a real thrill. What we've been through does change your perspective a bit on what's important and what you do with your life. But it was certainly an unreal feeling - and hopefully the next one won't be too far away," Shane said.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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