A Dorset cancer patient says she feels “reborn” after a charity helped her return to her love of sea swimming.
Jackie Ingram hasn’t swum for seven years, since her first breast cancer diagnosis.
Lumpectomies and the removal of lymph nodes led her whole body to swell and her confidence to plummet.
But this week, Jackie strode proudly across Bournemouth beach wearing a specially-made, prosthetic swimsuit, before plunging herself into the surf.
She said: “It might not seem much to a lot of people, but this swimsuit, which has been paid for by a local cancer charity has enriched my life beyond words.”
She continued: “When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago I got through the surgery and treatment with the love and support of my friends and family.
“But I lost the confidence to do the thing that gave me the most joy – swimming in the ocean.
“Before cancer I swam all the time and even took part in races and charity swim events,
“But when I suffered acute lymphedema (swelling) in my arms and legs, I stopped swimming altogether and I was heartbroken.”
Jackie, who is also deaf, was given the all-clear from cancer. But two years ago it returned with a vengeance and she lost both her breasts, with no opportunity of reconstruction.
“I needed to swim then more than ever, but it seemed even more hopeless,” she said.
“I tried sewing breast pads inside my own bathing suit, and I also tried some specially made pads, but they soaked up so much water and expanded so much it would have been difficult to drag my weakened body back out of the water.
“I looked into the latest prosthetic swimwear and was shocked at the price. I just couldn’t afford that kind of money. And when my breast nurse suggested I apply for a grant I dismissed it because I genuinely didn’t think it was an important enough request.”
But Jackie was eventually persuaded to apply to Dorset Cancer Care Foundation for help and was amazed when the charity offered to buy her the special swimwear.
“When the suit arrived in the post I just cried and cried,” she said. “It was so pretty and no one has a clue what it hides beneath.
“I went into the water the following day and have been in every day since.
“I have even braved an indoor pool. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from me and there is no stopping me now!”
Dorset Cancer Care Foundation (DCCF) was set up by three women from Poole, Dorset, to help the county’s cancer patient cope with the financial burdens of cancer.
The charity gives grants to pay for everything from wigs, to transport to and from hospital and short breaks.
Co-founder Leslie-May Harrison, who is herself battling breast cancer, said: “Jackie’s story sums up what DCCF is all about.
“Cancer is devastating enough, but it is often accompanied by immense stress caused by financial difficulty too.
“When we received Jackie’s application and read about her love of the sea, there was no hesitation in approving her for a grant.
“We are over the moon to see her back in the water and hope her story now inspires even more Dorset cancer patients to seek our help.”
More information about Dorset Cancer Care Foundation and details of how Dorset residents can apply for help can be found at: www.dccf.co.uk
Media information from Debbie Granville on 07884 657782 email: Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org