Sophie was in her final year at university when her aunt Becky was taken into hospital with complications related to her type 1 diabetes.
Starting 2017 was rough. Shortly before New Year, my aunty Becky was admitted to hospital. She had type 1 diabetes and had many issues related to it, so sadly hospital visits weren’t uncommon. Diabetes had caused her to lose almost all of her sight, one of her legs from below the knee, ulcers, double kidney failure. You name it, but she always came out fighting, and always with a smile and a joke in tow.
At the age of 44 Becky passed away, surrounded by those who loved her. She was a real firecracker, she had this wicked sense of humour which stayed intact. No matter what life threw at her or anybody else, she could always put a smile on her face and yours.
I was in my final year of university when this happened, I had to go straight into exams and write my dissertation. My stress levels were through the roof and I suppose I pushed my grief to one side.
I wanted to do something for Becky and make her proud. It was also a challenge for me as myself and exercise are not exactly friends, I enjoy pudding too much.
I found my local pool which during my first session had a 50m pool (Olympic sized). I managed 1000m and was beyond exhausted, every limb ached. I felt quite dejected but I decided to try a different length lane – 28m to be exact. I found this put less pressure on my body and I felt more at ease, I could go more at my own pace and in time I’d gradually get faster. By the end of Swim22 I could swim 1 mile in 57 minutes. And thanks to some wonderful work colleagues, family and friends I surpassed my £100 target as well, I was on cloud nine!
After the challenge
The icing on the cake was my cousin Dan when he saw I’d completed the challenge he said "Well done Sophie. You should be proud of yourself as I know my mum would have been". I can’t even begin to explain how that made me feel, one little sentence made my three-month challenge all worth it.
Swimming did me the world of good, I was so stressed because of university and that mixed with my castaway grief took me to somewhere dark. I felt lethargic and miserable, I couldn’t be bothered with anything. Some days I wouldn’t want to get out of bed to go to a lecture, or even go for a swim, but I had to remind myself why I was doing this and who I was doing it for. You’d be surprised how much of a stress reliever swimming is. It doesn’t permanently remove pain but the moment you get in the water you feel at ease, a sense of relaxation you don’t get anywhere else.
The more I swam, the happier I began to feel, the more I swam, the more motivated I became. It gave me focus, and brought back a lot of confidence that had faded in the previous months, it really helped in my final push to finish university.
I promised that every year it takes place, I will join in with Swim22. I’ve already signed up for a second time and started fundraising. I’ve set myself an even bigger challenge, I want to double what I did this year. I want to swim 44 miles rather than 22. That’s the equivalent of swimming the English Channel and back.
I’d recommend Swim22 to anyone. You don’t have to be the best swimmer in the world and you certainly don’t have to do it alone. Get the whole family to join in. Get a group of colleagues together. You can go at your own pace and in your own time, it used to really help me wind down after doing a full day at work or university.
I’d love to be able to say my story has inspired people to take part in something as wonderful as this. Even raising awareness about diabetes and the work that Diabetes UK does is reward enough. If one family can benefit from our support I’d be thrilled.
If Becky taught us one thing, it’s that there’s always light in darkness, and you’ll always be able to find it.
Will you join Sophie for Swim22 this February? Swim 22 miles, the distance of the English Channel, in 12 weeks, from your local pool - raising funds for Diabetes UK with every length.