Julie’s breast cancer journey and love of open water swimming

By Julie Pollock

June 2022 has been quite a month. It began with Mallorca at Best Fest open water swim festival, followed by the Her Spirit Sunset and Summer Solstice swims and then finished with completing ‘Coniston End to End’ .. a 5.25 mile swim in the lake district. Along the way, I can’t quite believe I have qualified as an open water swim coach too! None of this would have happened if I hadn’t discovered the Her Spirit community. 

Coniston End to End has been the focus for training for so many of us for so many months. The Her Spirit mantra  #togetherwevegotthis… couldn’t have been truer on the lead up to the event and the day itself. The ‘End to End’  group on the App provided a platform to share our successes and failures, our anxieties (from water temperature to how to fuel) and our training. We had ‘zoom’ sessions providing expert advice and inspiration from Olympian open water swimmer Keri-anne Payne and training plans from Mel Berry Her Spirit co founder. A special mention to the Yoga for swimmer coach, Georgia, who’s sessions were crucial in keeping me injury free.

Arriving in Coniston, it felt so good to be part of a team Her Spirit. From dipping in the lake the day before with our local ‘HerSpiriter’, meeting HerSpiriters in person for the first time, calming each other down in the obligatory ‘Pre swim faff’, the coach trip to the start and cheering everyone in as they got their medals, then finally the coffee and cake debrief the morning after ..the support was incredible. 

Everyone who stood on that start line in nervous anticipation of what was to come should be so proud of themselves. We knew it was going to be a challenge ..but the conditions were tough!… nobody said beforehand the wind might be so strong it would be impossible to get to the fuelling boat !  

We’ve all come on different journeys to reach that start line. For me it was pretty much 7 years to the day that I completed fairly intensive treatment for breast cancer. My life felt like it had been put on hold and all my fitness had gone. It was that diagnosis that made me a year later, do something that had been on my ‘to do’ list for years but I had never found the time or the courage to do: sign up for an open water swimming taster course in the Lake  District. The minute I stepped into that water, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face ….. I had found my happy place. Open water swimming became the focus for my recovery as I rebuilt my strength, learnt front crawl and started entering short (!) swim events. 

Fast forward to 2020 and I discovered the Her Spirit at Spring Lakes Open water centre.  I had found my open water tribe …..and access to great on line coaches to get me stronger and fitter as well as local swim coaching. 

The Her Spirit community has pushed me to take on bigger and bigger challenges and given me opportunities that I would never have thought possible… I have loved every single minute. Thank you !! 

It just feels fitting to finish with the words of Dame Deborah James who has been such a inspiration to many and especially those of us whose lives have been touched by cancer …“find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. … now on to the next challenge … I am excited to be part of the Her Spirit Lakes to London relay this autumn raising morning for Breast cancer Now.

Jules and her daughter Caitlin are also playing a key part in Her Spirit’s Lakes to London 500KM challenge which is aiming to raise £100,000 for Breast Cancer Now. You can sign up too and join her  Lakes to London

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Watch Jules amazing journey on Her Spirit TV