A REGULAR visitor to Lyme Regis is highlighting the positive power of swimming for individuals and charities by urging people sign up for the Swimathon Festival 2021.
Roberta Greenslade, 87, celebrated the completion of her gruelling cancer treatment with a swim in the open sea at Lyme Regis.
Her life-long love of swimming had been put on hold for most of the summer after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.
Roberta lives in Taunton and spends most weekends in Lyme Regis where she and her husband, Jim, have a beach chalet and swim in the sea throughout the summer.
Commenting on her cancer diagnosis, Roberta said: “One of my breasts felt a bit odd. I didn’t think it was a lump. It was rather a large swelling which felt far too big to be a lump.
“That confused me as I thought it was small lumps we should look out for, more like a bean.”
Mrs Greenslade, a mother-of-two who has five grandchildren and three great grandchildren, was referred to hospital where she had a mastectomy, followed by radiotherapy treatment.
“I couldn’t swim during my treatment all that summer until I had heeled,” she said.
“I swam again at the first opportunity after my treatment had finished. I couldn’t wait to get back in the water.”
Now Roberta is urging people in the South to sign up for the Swimathon Festival 2021.
After a challenging year for many swimmers who missed out during the pandemic, she’s urging swimmers to swim 5k this autumn in the world’s largest annual swimming fundraiser to raise money for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie.
The festival of swimming is held from September 10 to 12, with the Swimathon and Open Water Swimathon events taking place on the same weekend for the first time at pools and venues across Dorset, Devon and the UK.
People can participate individually or as part of a team and those who can’t make one of the organised sessions can sign up to MySwimathon, and choose a time and venue that suits them from September 13 to 19.
‘My love of swimming has lasted all my life’
Roberta, who grew up in Devon, had started swimming in outdoor pools up on Dartmoor when she was a girl and never missed a chance to swim.
“When I was a child neither of my parents swam but I was taught by a family friend,” she said.
“During the war, we used to swim in pools fed by water from the River Teign which ran through our school grounds. My love of swimming has lasted all my life.
“I like open water swimming best. It’s more interesting. But, these days, I only swim outdoors in warmer weather.
“I only swim for fun but I find it a very positive pastime”.
Her son, Malcolm, who lives in Lyme Regis and has swum in the sea there since he was a child, runs Lyme Bay Swimming where he is a Swim England Open Water Swimming Coach.
Malcolm’s son, Ben 20, is an RNLI West Dorset Senior Lifeguard covering Lyme Regis, West Bay and Weymouth and daughter, Abi, 17, is a lifeguard with Surf Life Saving GB.
Abi also provides additional help for Malcolm when needed with groups.
Malcolm, who also undertakes indoor coaching, said: “It’s all about helping people to become more confident in the water and getting them to enjoy swimming. There was a huge increase in interest in outdoor swimming during lockdown, with pools closed, which continues to grow.
“I see so many positives all the time from swimming not least the circle of new friends people make as well as the health benefits ranging from boosting the immune system, minimising pain, helping with weight loss and helping to circulate and promote the flow of lymph fluids around the body which was particularly important in my mother’s case.
“People take it up for different reasons. It is good for the mind and the body.
“Those who try it tend to stick with it, once they get over any initial anxiety about sea swimming which is something I am often asked to help with.
“Mum and Dad have been regular swimmers in Lyme Regis for many years. They love it.
“My mum doesn’t think she is inspirational but the way she dealt with her cancer diagnosis and treatment was very positive. Having that attitude helped.
“She was active until she had surgery and then she desperately wanted to get back in the water. She missed a lot of the summer of 2018 because of a chest drain associated with her surgery which stopped her swimming.
“But she still came to Lyme Regis and when she couldn’t swim she was paddling up to her knees. I know she missed swimming terribly the summer she had the mastectomy.
“She is very modest about it but she has made an amazing recovery and to be still swimming at her age is so nice to see.”
Roberta added: “My experience means my family and I understand all too clearly why events such as Swimathon are so vital to support the work of charities like Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie.”
Something for all abilities
The Swimathon Festival offers a variety of distances for all ages and abilities – from 400m, up to a Triple 5k, and a new 30.9k option.
“I hope swimmers young and old, new and experienced will dive in and help thousands of families across the UK,” said Roberta.
Swimathon has raised more than £55million for charities since it began in 1986. This year, the Swimathon Foundation will donate £2.50 from every entry fee to help protect Swimathon pools and venues for the future, following the impact of the pandemic.
As well as raising money, it has mental and physical health benefits too. Moderate exercise such as swimming can help build stamina, burn calories and keep a healthy body weight, which reduces the risk of a range of diseases including cancer.
Swimming regularly is also gentle on the joints, can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve sleep patterns.
Helen Johnstone, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the south, said: “The Swimathon Festival offers a challenge for all open water or pool swimmers.
“We hope everyone will sign up now to help us keep making transformative steps in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime. All of us can support the research that will beat it.”
Mark Winton, head of community fundraising at Marie Curie, added: “We’re so excited that pools have re-opened and people can once again take the plunge and make a splash while helping raise vital donations for Marie Curie.
“At Marie Curie, we rely on the support of the amazing public to ensure our nurses can keep caring for people at the end of their lives and that grieving people in the UK can get the care and support they need.
“Every penny raised helps us make a difference to the end of life care people in the UK receive.”