Sunday, 17 July 2016

My biggest challenge yet

Not the weather I ordered!
Arriving at Lake Bala for the second and most daunting of my challenges last weekend, I was struck by how bleak it looked. The sky was grey, the mountains were shrouded in mist and it was pouring down. Most worrying for me, it was windy and the water was choppy! This was definitely not the weather I had hoped for and nothing at all like the calm swimming conditions I was used to.

I felt genuinely scared. I always knew that the hardest part of the 1km swim would be the mental challenge and overcoming my panic, but the weather conditions had just made it a whole lot tougher.

As I entered the lake, the first thing that hit me was the cold - 16 degrees to be precise - the coldest water I have ever swum in.

The next thing to hit me (literally) was a wave, right in the face. I lost my rhythm and came up for air, panic starting to set in. Doubts started to fill my head. What if it was too far? What if I couldn't do it? What if the weather got the better of me?

Then I heard the reassuring voice of one of the safety kayakers "Let your breath settle, you'll be fine". I tried again. The wind and another wave hit me in the face. Again the kayaker reassured me and again I tried to relax. Each time I breathed to my left, I caught a reassuring glimpse of the kayak and gradually my breathing calmed down and slowly I got into my front crawl rhythm.

Badly timed waves made sighting the buoys tricky at times and I veered a bit off course once or twice, but I made it to the first buoy. I started to relax and my confidence grew. At that point I told myself I could do it, I just had to keep going. I was buffeted by the waves and I collided with another swimmer, but I stuck at it. When I reached the second buoy, I heard my friend in the kayak again. "You're nearly there" she shouted. She was right, I was on the homeward stretch and I was actually going to do it. 

As I approached the third and final buoy, the swimmer I had collided with was just ahead of me and my competitive side kicked in. It was only a mini battle (we were way behind the leaders), but one I wanted to win. I picked up speed, passed the other swimmer and made it to the jetty a few seconds ahead of her.

I had done it! Challenge number two was complete!

I did it!!

I'm taking on three challenges in 2016 to help Pregnancy Sickness Support raise enough money to put its information leaflets in Bounty's Pregnancy Information Packs. This would enable it to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the vital support and information the charity can provide to sufferers and their families. You can read about my three challenges here.

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Why I do what I do ...

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that last year I completed my first triathlon to raise money for Pregnancy Sickness Support.

This year, I again wanted to do something to raise money for the charity and highlight the condition, hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) so I decided on my "Triple Challenge for Pregnancy Sickness Support". If I'm honest, when I embarked on my three challenges, I had doubts whether I should be doing it all. Was it too soon after asking for sponsorship for my triathlon? Would I end up annoying my friends and family who had been so generous in the past? Would people tire of hearing about my challenges? I still don't know the answers to those questions, but I sincerely hope not.

But then in May, I spoke at the Pregnancy Sickness Support Volunteer Conference and it gave me renewed confidence in what I'm doing and hoping to achieve.

I was privileged to meet some of the charity's fantastic volunteers who have all suffered from HG themselves. By far the hardest part of the conference was hearing the heartbreaking stories of women traumatised by their experience of pregnancy; women desperate for another child but petrified of being pregnant again; women told they must not have any more children because of HG; women unable to continue with much wanted pregnancies because HG made it impossible for them to look after their older children. But how truly inspiring it was that all those brave women are now so motivated by their own terrible experiences that they want to do something to make a difference to other sufferers and their families!

And that is all that I'm trying to do - to make a difference so that other women do not have to suffer in the same way that I, and so many others, have suffered in the past.

You only need to read some of the comments received in response to Pregnancy Sickness Support's joint study with BPAS into women's experiences of termination for severe pregnancy sickness, I could not survive another day, to realise the importance of the work being done by the charity to improve the treatment and care received by sufferers.

And then there is the feedback from sufferers who have been supported through their HG pregnancies by PSS and its volunteers:

"Thank you for everything you do - you have saved me and my baby’s life”
“I really honestly believe I would have died if it hadn't been for all support from PSS”
“I can't talk highly enough of the charity which acted as a lifeline for me.”

On 22 June, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) released the first National Guidelines for the Management of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This is an important step forward and will make a huge difference to sufferers, giving GPs the confidence and the knowledge to treat the condition effectively. Three of my fellow trustees co-authored the guidelines and dozens of the charity's volunteers commented and reviewed the guidelines while in development.

This is just one example of how Pregnancy Sickness Support is helping to shape the way sufferers are cared for. But this is just one step and there is a lot more work still to be done.

In one week's time I will attempt to swim 1 kilometre in open water in Lake Bala. Until 2 years ago I couldn't even swim a stroke of front crawl. One  year ago my 200m open water triathlon swim was a disaster - I panicked and ended up doing breaststroke (very slowly) most of the way and was exhausted at the end of it. I've been training hard for months in the pool and in open water to give myself the best chance of completing my second challenge. I really hope all my training pays off!

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.