Saturday 21st September 2019, and today is the big day of Swim Serpentine, I’ve been looking forward to this for two years now, a little hiccup last year preventing me from taking part, so I can’t wait to get in, and start swimming in the lovely cold refreshing water of Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London. I say hiccup, but I suppose getting terminal lung cancer is a bit more than a hiccup, but that’s how I looked at it, it’s easy to say hiccup now, but twelve months ago I wasn’t looking at it quite like that, but I wasn’t scared of it either, as I really didn’t feel ill by it and certainly didn’t feel like it was about to kill me, so I just took it one day at a time, and had to put most of my life on hold for a while, but whatever, I was going to get through this, alive!
Training for this event has been slow due to illness this year, but I’ve had a few really good swims in the local pool, so I’m really pleased with that and feeling ready for it. In July I hurt my rib, or sprained a muscle on or next to one of my ribs, which was quite painful at times. I was doing some deep breathing exercises, and as I finished I could just feel a little discomfort in my ribs as I breathed in fully, so I wasn’t too concerned with this. Two weeks later I ran the London 10k, and a constant pain in my side during the latter stages of this run, I put that down to a stitch, and thought no more of it, but later that day it was becoming quite uncomfortable to get up from a chair or moving around in bed, and had sprained the muscle again, but it’s quite hard not to use that muscle when moving around, so more running or swimming was out, for now anyway. A few weeks later and my side is almost fully better now, and as we were out one day having a little walk, I sneezed, and yep, sprained the same muscle again. A few more weeks after this and it’s nearly better again, during a bit of diy, I’m putting the telly on the wall, as I’m lifting the tv onto the fitting I’ve just attached to the wall, I’d thought this new tv we got a few years ago was quite light, but when your struggling on your own to get both sides onto the new fitting and only one side wants to go on, you realise that actually, it’s not as light as you thought it was, and is becoming quite heavy now. And yes I’ve sprained the same muscle again, and it’s quite painful, I’m not having much luck with this muscle, and starting to get a little concerned, as my swim is coming up and I want to get a few good swims in before it, I need this swim, I can’t miss it again.
I managed to get in the pool a week before my swim, and I tentatively got in the water almost praying my side wouldn’t hurt, and what a huge relief it didn’t, it was almost better now, I just didn’t want the swimming to aggravate it. I got a mile in that day, two lengths front crawl and then two breast stroke for sixty four lengths, so happy and relieved at the same time. I got another mile in on the Tuesday before, and just did breast stroke that day, as I knew that’s what I’ll be doing in the Serpentine. Last time I tried a little front crawl, but with the cold, I could hardly breath and almost had to ask for help, so it’ll just be breast stroke this time, but next year front crawl all the way. Lots of training to get in this year for it, I struggle with front crawl and get out of breath really quickly, I need more work on my stroke. Around early July, I managed a great swim in Basildon Sporting Village, my local pool. They built a new swimming pool here for the 2012 Olympics, we had the Japanese swimming team training here, so Basildon benefitted from these games, and also Hadleigh just up the road from us with the Mountain Bike course for the Olympics that year, a great place for a walk or a bike ride. On the day of my great swim in July, I managed to get to 170 lengths, thats over two and a half miles, I just kept going, as my wife was out that day and nothing to get home for, I couldn’t believe how far I went. Hearing stories of people swimming two or three hundred lengths was just astounding for me and completely unachievable, but now I’m almost there, so yes I can do this, it is within my capabillities. Never doubt yourself.
First thing I have to do on Saturday morning is to pick my car up from having a service and MOT, it was done the day before, but when we walked there to pick it up, they couldn’t find the keys, it was a key fob where you press the button to open the car. I knew I should of brought the spare one with me, I normally do. So we walked back home, despite them offering us a lift, we do like walking. With the spare key fob this time we got our car and they’ll keep looking for our key fob, and will pay for a replacement, we discovered will cost £160-170, I never realised they were that much, don’t lose your car keys. First job done, now I have my three monthly scan this morning, so off to the hospital now, we were going to walk, but we’ve already walked this morning, so it’s the car and £3.00 parking. All goes well with the scan, I didn’t have to wait too long to get scanned, and it was a brand new scanning machine, they have three of these now. This one they can speak to you, a little awkward silence while they waited for my reply, I wasn’t use to this, I thought they just speak but she asked if I was ok. Now we just have to wait until the 17th Oct for the results. All done so off to the station at Pitsea for the train to Fenchurch Street, walk around to Tower Hill, get a tube to South Kensington, quick change and one more train to Hyde Park corner, and we’re here, my wife Sonia, son Leo, daughter Lib and her two Jess and Reg, just got to find my Mum who has come down from Ipswich just to support me for this swim, thanks Mum. We see Chris and Davey, our son in law and son, they’re looking after the hot tubs for this event, and have done for four years now, South East Hot Tubs have come along way in the seven or so years they’ve been operating.
We find a little spot to sit in the shade, it is a lovely day today, but I didn’t bring any sun lotion, I didn’t think I would need any, but it’s lovely today. I start getting my self ready, we have an hour before my start time, so no rush. I proudly put on my ‘Minion’ swimming trunks, no wetsuit here, as the water temperature is 18c so wetsuits are not compulsory. Theres lots of ‘oh my god, your not wearing those!’ Along with lots of laughter, which is what I like, life’s too short to be serious too often, there’s a time and a place and this ain’t one of them. Trunks, goggles, ear plugs, vaseline, sun lotion ( my daughter Lib had some with her), tow float, swim number and timing tag on my ankle, swim hat-pink, nice choice, just the colour code for my start time. Right lets do it, luckily I can put most of what I need in my tow float, and the rest my son Davey will look after near the hot tubs, handy having someone on the inside, now lets get to the start.
On to the start area with only a few minutes to go, getting excited now, I now it’s going to be cold and I haven’t done as much swimming as I would of liked lately, but I’m raring to go, my family are waving me off and the front of the queue has started to go into the water, it takes a few minutes for us at the back to get to the water, nervous excitement now, quick pose for the camera, and my feet are in and it’s cold, but not freezing, bearable, and a quick push off and I’m fully in, and I’m loving it, in where I love to be, the water. Swimming breast stroke and it seems slow going but I don’t mind, it’s not a race and I love being in here so why would I want to rush. There’s a group of us swimming along at roughly the same speed, I’m looking out for my family cheering me on from the side, but I can’t see them, so on with swimming then. It’s an oval course, we start half way along one straight then go around and down the back straight, then turn again to the finish. There’s a lot of people about as it’s a lovely sunny day. I’m feeling good today and coping quite well with this swim, I’m starting to catch a few, not speeding past them but moving up the field slowly, round the bend and down the back straight, I’m starting to speed up a bit now, and not feeling cold either, my fingers were going numb last time, but it was 15c, that three degrees makes a big difference, and I had my wetsuit on last time, much prefer as a skins swimmer, I’d say no chaffing but that’s not true as the top of my legs are getting sore, from my baggy minions shorts, I have trunks on underneath, but wanted to make it fun. Coming up to the last bend and no one has overtaken me, but I did start at the back, where all the slower swimmers are, but still a little chuffed with myself. Spoke too soon, ones gone past me quite quick, then on the run up to the finish someone came flying past and he had an orange cap on, so he started half hour after me and he’s caught me up, then another three come past before I get to the finish, they’re all doing front crawl and making it look effortless while they go past me so quickly, I must try harder.
As I get to the finish, I’m given a helping hand to get out, but I feel ok, two years ago I felt shattered at the finish, but I may of had the start of my lung cancer then without knowing it, I have it now but it’s dormant, and certainly doesn’t seem to affect me. I get out walk along and get my tag sorted out then a very feeble shower, then to the hot tubs, something you really look forward to, but my fan club are waiting for me to congratulate me, hugs and kisses before the tubs, I get a little emotional when my wife hugs me and asks if I’m ok, I am but so proud of myself for doing it, getting it done despite having cancer. The generator that swim serpentine had for the hot tubs, kept cutting out so the water in them wasn’t too hot which was a lot nicer, too hot and it’s uncomfortable, as you’ve just come out of cold water. Sitting in the tub you get joined by and meet some lovely people, which is really nice about these sort of events, doing some of the mud runs I’ve done you started to recognise people from the last race which was nice, but this is a big event with 6-7000 swimmers, hard to spot someone with that many. Get my medal and a few goodies and bottle of water then get changed and make my way back to where we’re all sitting and my lovely cup of tea is waiting for me, heaven. Feeling great apart from the top of my legs just above the knee, my shorts didn’t half rub all the way around, there’s always a price to pay for acting the fool, but it was fun and worth it, but they are really sore. We say goodbye and get the train home, salad in a pitta, as I’m vegan, another cup of tea, and bed, I’m going to sleep very well tonight. What a fantastic day it’s been, bring on the next one, take care and thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I do appreciate it, see you soon and :- Don’t be afraid of lung cancer, always 100% positive.