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‘I’m swimming the Channel in memory of my husband Nigel’

July 5, 2013
Teacher Helen Franklin preparing for her swim

Teacher Helen Franklin preparing for her swim

A mother of two with Multiple Sclerosis will swim the English Channel in memory of her late husband.

Helen Franklin’s husband Nigel died four years ago after battling cancer for more than a decade.

After his passing she decided to take up swimming as a form of escape and a way of coping with widowhood, but it soon became something more serious.

Swimming the Channel had been a childhood dream,” said Mrs Franklin, 45, from Kennington. “When Nigel died, I joined a gym having not really done any exercise for 20 years.

“I was soon up to swimming for five hours at a time, but it was boring in a swimming pool so I started open water swimming and then remembered my dream.”

Mrs Franklin, who is a foundation stage teacher at Rush Common Primary School in Abingdon, hopes to swim the 21 miles to Cap Gris Nez in Calais in September.

Her level of fitness is markedly different from 2001, when she was in the John Radcliffe Hospital on liquid sterioids having suffered temporary paralysis down the right side of her body, while her husband of 10 years was elsewhere in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy.

Now she is training for the Channel challenge by building up her stamina, training three times a week in open water for up to six hours at a time.

She also travels to Dover, Kent, every three weeks to train in the sea. She explained: “It is hard going, I recently encountered my first jellyfish while swimming at Dover and got stings all up my arm.”

The fastest time a swimmer has crossed the Channel in is 7hrs 27mins. Mrs Franklin is hoping to make it somewhere between 16 and 20 hours.

She is determined that her efforts will raise £10,000 each for the MS Society and Cancer Research UK.

Her husband, a commercial business manager for Unipart, had lymphoma, which later became a sarcoma.

And she is getting plenty of support from friends, family and her school.

During Mrs Franklin’s swim, her 19-year-old son Ben and her partner Richard will be on a boat alongside her, while her daughter Phillipa and her parents will be waiting to meet her on her return to Dover.

Rush Common is even hoping to have a webcam on board the support boat so her pupils can follow her progress.

The school’s headteacher Maxine Evans said: “We are delighted that Helen is achieving her long-term goal. We’re very proud of her determination and resilience.”

Mrs Franklin has now been free from all symptoms of MS for ten years. She said: “My prognosis is very optimistic. I think a positive mental attitude has a huge amount to do with it: I will say I live with MS, but never say I suffer from it.”


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