Cancer survivor overcomes stoma fears to take part in swimming challenge
A 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 a charity swimming challenge.
Tuppy Hill, 61, who has beaten bowel cancer, will swim 15 kilometres this May at Canford Sports Centre to raise money for Cancer Research UK and the end of life charity, Marie Curie.
The Ferndown resident is urging others to make a splash too by taking part in the world’s largest annual fundraising swim – Swimathon 2023 – for the two much-loved causes.
Swimathon takes place from May 12 to May 14 at pools and venues across Dorset and the UK, including Two Riversmeet Leisure Centre in Christchurch, Ferndown Leisure Centre, Rossmore Leisure Centre in Poole, Blandford Leisure Centre and Poole Swimming Pool.
With a variety of distances available - from 400 metres up to 30.9 kilometres - the sponsored event offers a challenge for all swimmers. People can participate individually or as part of a team.
Tuppy began supporting the challenge with her brother after a number of their family members had experienced cancer.
She 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.”
Tuppy said she wanted to share her story to hopefully inspire people across Dorset to get off the starting blocks and help support the charities close to her heart.
She added: “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."
Any swimmers who can’t make one of the organised sessions can sign up to MySwimathon, which takes place from 28 April -21 May, and choose a time and venue that suits them.
For more information and to sign up to Swimathon 2023, visit swimathon.org.