Learning to swim helped double cancer survivor Pam complete an IRONMAN

Love Swimming

Pam Batchelor had twice beaten cancer by the age of 31, but her fight still wasn’t over.

As a result of the gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, her weight fluctuated and she also battled lung damage, osteoporosis, arthritis and thyroid issues.

Pam was initially advised to start running but quickly developed hip and back injuries, which provided yet another setback.

So, with the help of a triathlon coach, Pam decided to learn to swim – and quickly realised the mental and physical benefits of getting in the pool.

Now, she is one of the stars of the latest Swim England-led #LoveSwimming campaign Moving Medicine, which urges the medical profession to be more proactive in prescribing swimming as part of a programme of activity to manage medical conditions and aid recovery.

Speaking at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Centre in Rugby, she said: “I just expected all of my breast care nurses to be telling me ‘go away, recover, recuperate’.

“But they said, no you need to do something to keep moving and basically to help with my mental wellbeing as well. Obviously being told you’ve got cancer, you think you’re going to die.

“I felt really embarrassed [when I started to learn to swim], because I was 42. I should’ve been swimming at that age.

“I was really embarrassed turning up at these sessions, thinking ‘oh my god’. But nobody took a blind bit of notice, because they were just interested in doing their sessions.”

The ultimate goal

With her physical health significantly improved, Pam had found her ideal release in swimming.

In somewhat fitting fashion, the Rugby resident progressed to triathlons and ultimately the toughest race the sport has to offer, in Austria.

“The swimming led onto cycling, which led onto the running,” she said. “I thought, if my body has let me down that many times, how far can I push it?

“So I decided for a 50th birthday present to myself, that I’d enter an IRONMAN. Everybody thought I was crazy but I persevered in the pool, did all my swimming and did it in 16 hours 25 minutes.

“I felt on top of the world. I couldn’t walk for days, but I was on top of the world.”

The #LoveSwimming campaign is delivered by Swim England in partnership with 1 Life, Active Nation, Active Lifestyle Centres managed by Circadian Trust, Everyone Active, Freedom Leisure, GLL, Gateshead Council, Leicester City Council, Nottingham City Council, Nuffield Health, Places for People and Serco.

Moving Medicine is the latest wave of the campaign and has featured other swimmers highlighting the benefits of swimming on their physical health, including Steve Wright, who began swimming as a form of rehabilitation after suffering a stroke, Paul Kirby, who suffered intense back pain after years of working a desk job and Wanda Stockdale, who says visits to the pool have helped her manage her osteoarthritis.