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Skydiving and Horse Racing go Hand-in-Hand

October 21, 2011 · By Terry Finley · Share

John Williams hails from Connecticut. He and his wife Cyndee have been West Point clients for several years. This August at Saratoga, as we walked out of the winners circle after a win with Sunrise Smarty, he asked if I had ever skydived. I told him I'd had nine jumps during my days as an Army Officer. With a big smirk on his face, John said, "I'm gonna skydive this fall - I'll send you photos."

I've been trying to do more blogging lately, so I sent John a note to ask if I could blog about the past year of his life. About twenty minutes later he sent me the following:
Hi Terry,
I had my first skydive today at 63 years old. What a rush!

This all started last year. Cyndee and I were out on our motorcycle and stopped at Skydive The Ranch. It was a beautiful spring day and I thought I could talk Cyndee into trying it. I acted as if I would fall out of a plane with no hesitation. When Cyndee said “no way” to a dive and the people there said I would have to book a jump two or three weeks ahead of time, we went on our way on our bike. I didn't really think more about it until Father’s day, when Cyndee went in with my daughter and her family and my son John to get me a gift certificate to skydive. A friend at work dives and mentioned to me to dive in the fall when the leaves turn, so we waited.

Then last summer came and I found out I had prostate cancer in a routine PSA exam that I happened to take. I thought I was in good shape, riding my bicycle 20 to 40 miles a week, so I put off taking physicals for a few years. It is important to watch the PSA reading at a low point as this cancer is slow-growing.  They say if you are going to get a cancer, prostate is the one to get. My PSA was high, so I had to act relatively fast and skydiving didn’t fit it the schedule.

After much research, I decided to enter the Lahey Clinic in Boston. My daughter Julie works there in cancer research. Julie told me about the great doctors that work there. That was Oct. 18th, 2010. I was out of the hospital the next day. It was only then that I mentioned to the nurses that I was from New York. I tried my best to get to Belmont on Oct. 20th to see Sunrise Smarty win, but it just wasn’t going to happen.

I will never forget that day. I was feeling kind of low, having gone through the hospital experience (I don’t even like to visit them), and I was hanging around in a hotel room in Boston. The phone rang; it was West Point Thoroughbreds calling me from the paddock at Belmont to let me know that Smarty was looking and feeling great. A few minutes later, he won. I sure felt a lot better after that.

Thanks to the care that Cyndee, my family and friends gave me, I recovered quickly.

I truly feel that being involved with horses helped me get through the rough times. Following their everyday training and races occupies your mind with good thoughts. Seeing them is a special bonus.

So now a year later, after the leaves turned again, I’m better again - and I finally fit that skydiving trip in. It was worth the wait.


The moral of the story? There are several. Don't forget your regular checkups, if you've ever dreamt of skydiving don't put it off any longer, remember the morale-boosting value of a good horse race... and make sure you enjoy the leaves this fall. John is on the left below. 

All the best,




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What a neat story about a neat couple!!!
Life is short. Take time to smell the flowers, watch butterflies, enjoy a sunset and a rainbow, go to your horses' races, and do the things you've always wanted to do. (I'm still hoping for that trip to Austria and Switzerland).
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