By Lorraine Gibson
TAKING a health-boosting plunge is one of Tuppy Hill’s favourite pastimes, so she uses her love of swimming not just for fun and exercise, but to help raise cash for charity.
She began supporting the Swimathon challenge with her brother after several family members, including their mum, dad and three grandparents, had experienced cancer.
Out of the blue, however, Tuppy’s mission to help others was almost sunk.
“In 2017 I began experiencing 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,” said the 61-year-old. “I was in complete denial. I thought I was going to die.”
So worried was she that something might happen to her, she and her partner of 30 years, Ian Metcalfe, decided to get married.
“I had chemotherapy at Poole General Hospital and took a drug called capecitabine. The tumour disappeared and it was decided that I didn’t need surgery but was put on a ‘watch and wait’ programme.”
In 2018 the tumour returned, so she had an operation to remove the cancerous tissue and was given a stoma. For a keen bather, it was a real blow.
“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 managed six and thought, ‘I’ve done it now!’ I built up from there. Swimming is my go-to, in the pool or the sea, two or three times a week, enabling me to keep some levels of fitness, another key weapon against cancer.”
Tuppy hopes sharing her story will inspire people and now she’s back in the water, ready to swim 15k in May at Canford Sports Centre to raise money for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie, and she’s urging others to sign up for Swimathon 2023.
As rising energy costs put some community pools at risk of closure, as well as supporting vital causes, £2.50 from each Swimathon entry will go to help secure the future of these pools.
Tuppy said: “It’s such a fun and simple way to encourage people to dip their toe in the water and get swimming. I hope swimmers of all ages and abilities will grab their caps and costumes to help.”
Swimathon will be held from May 12 -14 across Dorset and the UK, including Two Riversmeet Leisure Centre; Ferndown Leisure Centre; Rossmore Leisure Centre; Weymouth Swimming Pool; Blandford Leisure Centre; Oxley Sports Centre, Sherborne; and Poole Swimming Pool.