Breast cancer and barrel racing
Barrel Racing: There's something inspiring, exultant, in Raelene Milson's story.
Like the best of all tales, it's a story of a person facing incredible trials in life, but coming through them stronger than before.
Milson first started riding at 10 years old, as part of the pony club in Roma where she grew up, and by 19 she was competing in rodeos around the region.
Like many, she gave it up when she got married. She had three children (all boys) and moved to Victoria.
Returning to Queensland ten years later after her divorce, Milson was living what she described as a 'normal life' before, one day, everything fell apart.
In November 2012, Milson found a lump on her breast and went to the doctor.
"Then the ball started rolling,” she said.
She was sent for a mammogram in Toowoomba where she was diagnosed with cancer - an aggressive stage 3 lump on her left breast.
Five days before Christmas, her breast was entirely removed and in early 2013, she began 18 months of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of radiation.
The experience was devastating, and as she began her recovering, Milson knew she couldn't stay cooped up at home.
Instead she took up photography, and decided to return to a childhood dream - horse riding.
"I bought a horse from Jondaryan, $900 he cost me, his name was Leroy Brown, and I hadn't been on a horse for over 20, 30 years,” Milson said.
She rang up the Nanango Show Society to see if she could ride in the arena, and was asked if she'd be competing at the barrel race that weekend.
"I never looked back,” she said.
Within three months Milson and Leroy had won their first buckle, and together they won the National Barrel Horse Association fourth division buckle, qualifying to compete at the international barrel riding competition held in the United States.
Since then, she's qualified every year, but the $10,000 price tag meant she's never gone.
That is, until next year.
"I'm 50 next year in April, so my sons said' for what you've done for us, you gave up your whole life basically to look after us, you've been through breast cancer, everything like that, you deserve to go',” Milson said.
"And I thought 'well if I don't go I'll never get to go'. And turning 50 would be a milestone, I never thought I'd still be riding at 50, let alone competing at rodeo still, which was the best thing I've ever done is get back on a horse.
"It got me out of the house, it got me my confidence again.”
And according to Milson, she owes it all to Leroy Brown, whom she sold to a young woman when she moved from Nanango to Chinchilla.
She said Leroy had helped her, and it was time for him to help someone else, no matter how heartbreaking the separation.
"He was the one that got us out and healed us, and got us back out in life again,” she said.
Now cancer-free, and an advocate for cancer awareness, Milson is busy fundraising for her trip of a lifetime.
To get in touch, visit 'Help Rae Get to NBHA World Championship's October 2019' on Facebook.
Milson said a special thank you to her sponsors, Killa Coutry Outfitters, Framed Forever Fotos, NV Quarter Horses, Jerogael Stock Horses Contracting and Farrier Services, Ben Hilton Fencing and Yard Building.