Video: Lutterworth swimmer diagnosed with cancer just months after losing her sister to the disease urges people to sign up for Swimathon 2020

Sheelagh Connelly plans to take part in Swimathon and raise funds for cancer charitiesSheelagh Connelly plans to take part in Swimathon and raise funds for cancer charities
Sheelagh Connelly plans to take part in Swimathon and raise funds for cancer charities | other
Sheelagh was diagnosed with cervical cancer aged 39 - just four months after her sister Alison died of breast cancer aged 43.

A Lutterworth swimmer who was diagnosed with cancer just months after losing her sister to the disease is urging people to take the plunge and sign up for Swimathon 2020.

Sheelagh Connelly, a marketing manager from Aptean, is taking part in the world’s largest annual swimming fundraiser over the weekend of March 27-29 to raise money for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie.

Click here to watch the video.

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Sheelagh was diagnosed with cervical cancer aged 39 - just four months after her sister Alison died of breast cancer aged 43.

She says the guilt she experienced for surviving cancer when her sister died has led her to make huge changes in her life.

Sheelagh, now 55, said: “Alison was a county champion swimmer and I have lots of happy memories of family trips to the pool, so I’ll be swimming in her memory.

“I’ve done Swimathon before, but this year I want to encourage more people to take part to support these amazing charities.”

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Sheelagh's sister Alison (pictured) died of breast cancer aged 43.Sheelagh's sister Alison (pictured) died of breast cancer aged 43.
Sheelagh's sister Alison (pictured) died of breast cancer aged 43. | other

Sheelagh, who lives in Gilmorton near Lutterworth and swims at Virgin Active in Northampton, also wants to highlight the need for more women to attend cervical smear tests. She said:

“My sister died in September 2002, so I made it my New Year’s resolution to get a smear test.”

Sheelagh had to undergo a radical hysterectomy, but no further treatment was needed. She said: “I’ve waited longer for a hairdresser’s appointment than I did for all this to happen. I had the test in January and, by the February, I was having surgery.

“It was difficult to get my head around it all. I went off the rails a bit, smoking, partying and spending money – I thought I was trying to make the most of life but, looking back, it was survivor guilt.

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“Alison died even though she was fit and looked after herself well. Yet here I was throwing my life away. Eventually I thought - ‘how dare you disrespect your life, at least give yourself a fighting chance!’”

Sheelagh joined the gym and eventually got fit enough to take part in triathlons.

She said: “I needed structure and a reason to get up in the morning so I became goal orientated. Swimathon is a great way for me to focus on my fitness while raising funds in Alison’s memory.”

With a variety of distances from 400m all the way up to the Triple 5k, Swimathon offers a challenge for everyone. People can participate individually or as part of a team.

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The big Swimathon weekend takes place over the weekend of March 27-29 at pools across the UK.

Swimathon has raised more than £52m for charities since it began in 1986. Organisers hope that in this Olympic year, participants will help to make 2020 a record breaker by raising more than £2.2m.

To sign up to Swimathon 2020, visit swimathon.org.

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