The 17 October 2019 would be Dad's 80th birthday. Next year, unbelievably, will be 10 years since he died.
I had been thinking for a while about a way to mark this occasion with some kind of personal challenge. I decided on swimming as in his younger years Dad used to love being in the water. He'd tell me stories of when him and his mates used to go to Southend and swim around the pier. In his later years, despite his limitations, he still loved being in the water. He loved hydrotherapy and the warm water allowed him to feel free and weightless.
Swimming doesn't exactly come natural to me and I honestly can't remember the last time I even swam one length - it must be well over 20years. I decided to swim 80kms across one year - his 80th year. It works out roughly 60 lengths of a 25metre pool every single week. The hardest part of the challenge will be committing to go every week, time is precious with two little ones and work and everything else!
I started 'training' back in May. My first swim I only managed 12 lengths which took a lot of effort and a lot of resting in between each one! I was hugely unfit and so out of breath and the thought of swimming 60 lengths seemed impossible. Fast forward almost 6months and I've been every single week! I feel stronger and can swim without resting and my last swim was 58lengths! I am surprised to say I am actually enjoying it too!
The thing that has really surprised me the most is the peace it gives me. It's almost meditative which is a very welcome respite from the craziness of life. Time for me to think about nothing else but the memories I have of my wonderful Dad. MS changed his physical body in many ways, but we are so grateful it didn't ever change who he truly was.
I thought I may as well raise some money whilst doing it. I'm not setting myself a target as that is not the main reason why I'm doing this but anything will help. All money raised will go towards the running costs of the national MS-UK counselling service. A specialised service allowing people diagnosed with MS to talk to trained professionals.
MS impacts lives in many, many ways. It is so important to talk. Dad was very good at talking (who knows where I get it from!). Over the years he also provided a great listening ear to many who were newly diagnosed, drawing from his own experiences and challenges. He was a truly remarkable man.
For my Dad. My hero. My challenge is for him, to celebrate his life.... 80 years, (almost) 10 years gone and very thankful for the memories.
MS-UK was established in 1993, and is a national charity dedicated to empowering people with multiple sclerosis to make the most of today, and live life to the full.MS-UK put people affected by MS at the heart of the work that they do. They provide high quality, professional services to support people living with multiple sclerosis, and they listen to people affected by MS.