A Ferndown cancer survivor who feared her stoma would prevent her from enjoying the hobby she loved, is back in the water and urging people to sign up for Swimathon 2023.
Tuppy Hill will swim 15k this May at Canford Sports Centre to raise money for Cancer Research UK and the end-of-life charity, Marie Curie.
She’s urging others to make a splash too by taking part in the world’s largest annual fundraising swim for the two much-loved causes.
Swimathon takes place from 12 -14 May at pools and venues across Dorset and the UK – including Two Riversmeet Leisure Centre – Christchurch, Ferndown Leisure Centre, Rossmore Leisure Centre – Poole, Weymouth Swimming Pool, Blandford Leisure Centre, Oxley Sports Centre – Sherborne and Poole Swimming Pool.
Tuppy began supporting the challenge with her brother after a number of their family members had experienced cancer.
Tuppy said: “My mum had breast cancer and then secondary liver cancer, my dad had bowel cancer followed by skin cancer and oesophageal cancer and three of my four grandparents had cancer.
“Then in 2017 I began experiencing some tummy problems myself. I put them down to IBS and the fact I had a stressful job but when I saw blood in my stools, I went to my GP. I was referred to hospital straight away and a colonoscopy revealed a tumour in my bowel.
“Hearing that I had cancer was absolutely awful. I was in complete denial at first and I thought I was going to die. I had been with my partner, Ian Metcalfe, for 30 years and we decided to get married, I was so worried that something might happen to me.
“I had a type of chemotherapy at Poole General Hospital called oxaliplatin which Cancer Research UK scientists played a key role in developing and took a drug called capecitabine whilst having radiotherapy which CRUK researchers led the first-in-human clinical trials for.
“The tumour disappeared and it was decided that I didn’t need surgery at that point but was put on a ‘watch and wait’ programme. But in 2018 the tumour returned so I had an operation to remove the cancerous tissue and was given a stoma.
“I was trepidatious about swimming for the first time with my stoma in case it leaked and I was very conscious of a bulge inside my swimming costume. However, the staff at my pool were so supportive and gave me the courage to get back in the water.
“I was advised to do a couple of lengths but I managed five or six and thought to myself, ‘I’ve done it now!’ Then I began to build it up again from there. Swimming is my go to place and I enjoy going to the pool or swimming in the sea two or three times a week which also enables me to keep some levels of fitness, another key weapon against cancer.”
By sharing her story she hopes to inspire people across Dorset to get off the starting blocks and help support the charities close to her heart.
Tuppy said: “Swimathon is important to me because it’s something I love to do and it funds the work of charities like Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie who have supported me and my family members who have all been affected by cancer.
“It’s such a fun and simple way to encourage people to dip their toe in the water and get swimming. It really doesn’t matter if you’re not the fittest or the fastest. I hope swimmers of all ages and abilities grab their caps and costumes to help thousands of families across the UK.”
Swimathon has raised more than £55m for charity since it began in 1986. With rising energy costs putting some community pools at risk of closure, not only does the event support vital causes, £2.50 from the entry fee of everybody taking part at an official Swimathon venue is donated to help protect these pools for the future.
Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Dorset, Elisa Mitchell, said: “Whether you supercharge your swim and take on the 30.9k challenge or 5k is more in your lane, with Swimathon there’s a distance to suit everyone. There are also lots of great benefits to taking part, not least the chance to enjoy the water while supporting people like Tuppy.
“One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime*, but all of us can support the research that will beat it. From proving the link between smoking and cancer, to laying the foundations for modern radiotherapy – our scientists have been at the forefront of cancer research for 120 years. And we’re not stopping now. That’s why we’re urging swimmers to dive in, raise money and help us keep making new discoveries and breakthroughs. Together we will beat cancer.”
Marie Curie’s Director of Community Fundraising, Jayne Waterhouse, said: “Swimathon is an iconic event in the Marie Curie calendar and one we all look forward to every year. The exciting and inclusive challenge sees thousands of people take the plunge with sponsored swims up and down the country, whilst raising money to help Marie Curie support those affected by terminal illness.
“The money that Marie Curie receives through Swimathon fundraisers goes towards helping our nurses, bereavement counsellors, and support line staff to deliver vital care and support to people with a terminal illness and their families across the UK. Do something amazing for your health and well-being and for people across the UK who are dealing with terminal illness – sign up for Swimathon.”
Sign up for Swimathon 2023 at swimathon.org