My name’s Louise and my interest in supporting this charity began in 2002 when a close friend, Walter Garrett, was diagnosed with Leukeamia (ALL). We were part of a close knit group of friends who were studying Engineering and socialising in our free time. The news hit the whole group hard but we resolved to stay strong and be a positive support network for him – even going to hospital to see Walter after a night on the tiles and cause mayhem on the wards!
Heartbreakingly, despite many treatments and a bone marrow transplant from his brother, Walter lost his battle on 5th December 2003. He was only 21. Every year on his anniversary we hold our own tribute to him.
The regularity and intensity of maintaining this schedule around a full time job is all the more challenging as my own health is not fantastic - I’ve had fibromyalgia since I was 17. The fatigue, pain and side effects from taking medications ruled my life for the first years. I realised that nothing was going to help me unless I chose to understand how my body reacted to everyday tasks, relearning my daily limits. I resolved to live as normal a life as I could by building up so I could enjoy exercise again. This swim will be a real test with the fibromyalgia, but that’s all part of the challenge!
In 2008 I had a health scare where it was thought I might have Hodgkins Lymphoma. I’d been feeling very unwell since September 2007. By the time Christmas came it was all I could do to go to work. I’d lost a lot of weight and been ‘fed’ a lot of antibiotics in countless trips to the GP. The symptoms remained and were getting worse. I acquired painful sores in my throat and lost my voice periodically from January 2008. It was then that I noticed the lymph node on the left side of my neck, which had been swollen for several months, had grown in size and was completely hard and immobile.
I pushed my GP to see a consultant. I’m glad I did as after hearing my symptoms and viewing my sorry state he performed a needle biopsy the same day. The results weren’t conclusive and he took out the whole lymph node for biopsy. Thankfully I got the all clear from HL. I’ll be forever indebted to that consultant - he recognised the fact that what was going on wasn’t normal where GPs had just thrown me a constant flow of antibiotics. Publicly, I’m quite a closed person about my health but I want to raise awareness – people know their own bodies, so if you feel that there is something really not right then you must push for the answers.
I have already swum 37 miles, with 28 left to complete. Sadly I've had to take a break from the swim - I had an accident with my knee 3 years ago and it's had a lot of problems since and I need surgery. I'm hoping to get back to the challenge as soon as possible to complete this but at the moment, much to my frustration, it's had to go on a back burner. I won't give up in completing it some day soon!
My inspiration comes from Walter and people like him who are fighting every day. This swim is in his memory and I hope that it may encourage others to take up their own challenges for the charity.
Please visit my Just Giving page and help me to raise money for this great cause and in memory of Walter. Thank you.