Helen’s ‘cross Channel’ swim blows fundraising target out of the water

Helen Addy with hubby Jason.
Helen Addy with hubby Jason.

A Downham mum is on course to blow her fundraising target out of the water as she reaches the final stages of her “cross Channel” swim for Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s 20 Years Anniversary Appeal.

Since last month, Helen Addy, nee Mercer, has been swimming a mile every day except Sundays – 64 lengths – in the pool at Stonyhurst College, Hurst Green, where she works part-time as a Spanish teacher.

With the aim of swimming 21 miles – 1,344 lengths, the equivalent of swimming from Dover to Cap Gris Nez near Calais – Helen (42) had hoped her long distance effort would raise £1,000 for the charity.

But it now looks as if she will double that amount by the time she steps into the water for her final mile at 3pm on Saturday, which coincides with the college’s leisure centre open day.

More significantly for Helen, husband Jason, three-year-old son Joseph and other family and friends, the day also marks the first anniversary of the end of her treatment for breast cancer.

Helen said: “I have always enjoyed swimming and had just returned to it when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2015. It was my intention to swim my way through chemo to stay fit however, I wasn’t permitted to do so for risk of infection.”

Following her diagnosis, Helen underwent chemotherapy at Burnley General Hospital, where Rosemere Cancer Foundation is part funding a new chemotherapy unit, to shrink the cancerous tumour in her breast.

She then underwent surgery there followed by radiotherapy at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s regional specialist cancer treatment centre, the Rosemere Cancer Centre, at the Royal Preston Hospital.

Helen said: “It’s an amazing centre, which gives excellent care and so deserves support, but as well as raising money for Rosemere, I’m also swimming as a show of support for friends who are currently going through cancer treatment and as a personal challenge. I was diagnosed in winter.

“There were some very dark days when I had to work hard to stay positive.

“Among the many cards and messages of support I received was one from a former colleague, who had moved to Cornwall.

“She sent me some spring flowers grown by someone she knew on the Isles of Scilly. They came with the message ‘Spring always follows Winter’, which I took as my motto.

“It’s helped me tremendously and so it was especially fitting that it was spring going into summer when my treatment finished and the same time that my swim finishes as it’s about a fresh start, new life and vitality.”

Another colleague, Kate Wright, of Simonstone, will be joining Helen for her final swim as she too has been making the same cross Channel journey on a daily basis in support of Helen and Rosemere Cancer Foundation but usually, at a different time of day.

Two more Stonyhurst teachers – Director of Music at St Mary’s Hall Greg Mann and John Lennox, who teaches English as a foreign language – will then be playing accordion at a French-themed party to celebrate Helen’s achievement, which is scheduled for 5pm that same day in Downham Village Hall.

Helen, who last year raised £1,200 for Cancer Research UK by taking part in Race for Life, said: “When I started the swim, Downham Village Coffee Club, which meets monthly in the village hall, let me organise a quintessentially English afternoon tea to kickstart my fundraising to which I also invited family and friends. We decorated the hall with bunting and used vintage china. Hopefully, as I will reach France, we are planning to end the challenge on French note with French music, cheeses, cold meats, bread and wine.”

Helen added: “I have received tremendous ongoing support from family, friends, Downham villagers, Stonyhurst colleagues and my Parish of St Michael and St John’s in Clitheroe. I would like to thank them all. I am very grateful to everyone.”

Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s 20 Years Anniversary Appeal has a £1.5 million target for a trio of ground-breaking projects celebrating the 20th anniversary of the opening of Rosemere Cancer Centre, which is the Ribble Valley’s local specialist cancer treatment centre and provides all local radiotherapy among other care.

Further information on the appeal, how to donate, the cancer centre and Rosemere Cancer Foundation, whose work also extends to another eight hospitals in Lancashire and South Cumbria where cancer patients are treated, including not only Burnley General, but also the Royal Blackburn Hospital, visit www.rosemere.org.uk