Linda reluctantly retired from primary school teaching at 57, due to debilitating arthritis related to cervical spondylosis. Since then Linda’s health has deteriorated and her arthritis has spread to the sternum (costochondritis). This is a painful condition and Linda describes the pain as "having your rib cage in a metal vice and having to take shallow breaths to decrease the pain". Linda also has dystonia, a neurological condition which causes her to have head tremors and torticollis (where the head twists to one side). With no pain medication, understandably Swim22 poses as a real challenge for Linda. She initially thought she would be unable to achieve, but she wanted to try anyway.
Darlaston, West Midlands
Linda's experience of diabetes
I want to raise public awareness of how serious diabetes is and just how devastating it can be. I’ve been married to my amazing husband, Barry, for 40 years. Rebecca was born in 1981, our first and an absolutely gorgeous child. She chose her own middle name, Joy. We have two other daughters, Jo and Kate who made our family complete. In hindsight it is easy to see that things weren’t quite right a few weeks before Becky became ill. We put it down to the fact she was trying to lose weight and she seemed happy and healthy. It was summer so it didn’t seem strange she was drinking more. In August 1991 we were at our caravan in Wales. Everything seemed fine but one morning Becky seemed drowsy and lethargic. She didn’t want to get dressed or play with her sisters. By the afternoon she seemed disoriented and we took her to the Cottage hospital in Welshpool. The doctor recognised the symptoms and did a blood test; it was type 1 diabetes. An ambulance took us to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, it seemed to take forever. I can’t go into details, it’s too painful even now. We were told it was mild and she’d be sitting up chatting in no time. What actually happened was that the fluid from the drip went to her brain and I watched as my precious girl went into cardiac arrest. Becky was on life support but all tests showed there was no hope. We let her go on Sunday 4 August 1991. People have been amazing and people have been cruel – classic comments:
"Are you suing the hospital?" (No, I saw how hard they tried to save her)
"They must have done something wrong – people don’t die of diabetes"
"At first I think my close family and friends thought I was crazy, they’ve seen me struggle to climb the stairs some days."
Starting to swim
That first swim, I managed 20 lengths and was amazed at how comfortable I felt in the water. My pain didn’t seem to noticeably increase but I noticed soreness in my neck when I overdid it. Now I swim 45 to 60 lengths three times a week. I’ve lost a little weight and things have definitely toned up. I will definitely carry on with swimming after the challenge ends.
My advice to anyone thinking of taking up Swim22 would be try swimming, it’s low impact and excellent exercise. At first I think my close family and friends thought I was crazy, they’ve seen me struggle to climb the stairs some days. It doesn’t matter what you look like in your cozzy, don’t let it put you off.”
I wanted to do something in memory of Rebecca and to raise awareness to how
cruel and heart-breaking diabetes can be. I want to stop the assumption that diabetes isn’t dangerous. General comments heard over the years have been that diabetes isn’t seen as a big deal by those who don’t have it. I have the support of my family behind me and my daughter Jodie is also taking part in the challenge.
27 years on and I can honestly say we’ll never get over it. As a family we’re indestructible, we have each other and that’s enough but diabetes is a life sentence for a family. You live your life in fear. Will my girls be okay? Will my grandchildren? When I hear someone has been diagnosed I feel sick for them. This is why Swim22 is so important to me.
If you were inspired by Linda’s story why not register today.