A woman who survived cancer and built a million-pound business says that she owes everything to her ALPACAS AND LLAMAS.
Grateful Elaine Sharp claims her animals gave her the strength to live after the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of just 34.
She had ten tough years of cancer treatment and chemotherapy but said it was her beloved South American pets that helped her to turn her life around.
Now 53-years-old and in the clear, Elaine and her husband Nigel, 56, own a lucrative 45-acre Alpaca breeding farm north of Ringinglow Village, Sheffield.
Her beloved Alpacas are sold to other breeders for their quality fleeces and can fetch over a whopping £10,000 each.
Sheffield-born Elaine says her Alpacas were a form of therapy and now uses her farm to provide support for autistic children and adults with learning difficulties.
With 125 alpacas and llamas on the farm, Mayfield Alpacas is an award-winning alpaca breeding business.
Elaine said: “I got involved with these wonderful creatures on a fairly large scale purely because I fell in love with them and not because I wanted to run a successful business.
“I feel so privileged to have spent 20 years with these incredible animals and I will never ever forget what they have given me.
“They gave me a lifeline when I needed it most.
“After my diagnosis I decided I really needed something that I could have a focus on, so i wouldn’t be focusing on all of the cancer treatment.
“I spoke to my husband and I told him that I really love llamas and I really like alpacas and that it would be really good if we got one.
“We bought Georgie and Marty, our first alpaca and llama, a few months after my diagnosis.
“Every time I used to come from home the treatment we had a one acre paddock in our garden and that’s where Georgie and Marty were.
“No matter how bad I felt they always managed to make me smile. I was besotted with them.
“My love affair with these wonderful creatures had begun.
“To have another focus outside of cancer was an absolutely wonderful thing.
“I honestly think that if it hadn’t of been for Marty and Georgie I wouldn’t have got through.
“They are such therapeutic animals for anybody – old or young.
“They are so gentle, I couldn’t imagine my life without them.”
In 2001 Elaine also underwent a hysterectomy, following scans revealing potentially dangers lumps on her ovaries, ending her chances of having a family.
She added: “I’ve never really felt deprived or bitter through not having children because I’ve been blessed with all my alpacas and other animals.
“I really feel that this was my true vocation in life.”
Elaine’s fascination with the animals began when she rode a llama at Blackpool Pleasure Beach at the age of four.
But her love of the creatures also turned into a million-pound business while she was overcoming her cancer.
She added: “I never intended the Alpacas to become a business, I literally somehow just fell into it.
“After we’d had Marty and Georgie I decided that I wanted a couple of pregnant female alpacas that would produce offspring.
“Admiral was the first baby born on the farm. I felt like a proud mum.
“He was adorable and I still have him today now aged 16.
“He became one of my first stud males as he grew into a quality male and he’s sired many offspring.”
Elaine added: “We were just inundated with people who wanted to see our animals.
“I found that I was spending most of my time just talking about alpacas.
“We realised there was so much interest in spending time with the alpacas we thought my not open a coffee shop.
“We have many schools visits and a lot of autistic children and adults with learning difficulties who come to the farm.
“We find the feedback that we get from the carers is absolutely amazing.
“It’s really quite emotional.
“The actual business side of things I never dreamed I was capable of, I’m a working class girl from a working class family.”
Elaine has now written an autobiography entitled “Fight For Your Dream” to help others going through their cancer treatment.
She added: “It was quite traumatic, you just think that it’s the end.
“I want to show people that it’s not necessarily the end, it’s emotional but it’s not all doom and gloom.
“If I can help one person who is suffering with what I’ve experienced that would amazing.”