Round-Alderney swim for man with terminal cancer
AN ALDERNEY man, who has a terminal cancer diagnosis and just one lung, has completed a gruelling swim around his island to raise money for research into the disease.
Tom McKinley, 42, and four friends, who have all been affected by cancer, battled the strong currents and tides around Alderney to complete the challenge in just over five hours. They managed to raise more than £6,000.
The last person to swim around the island was Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew, which he did more than 20 years ago.
Mr McKinley, a civil service consultant who now lives in Hampshire, and the son of Alderney States member Graham McKinley, was given six months to live eight years ago after being diagnosed with lung cancer. It spread to other parts of his body and he has since had surgery for brain cancer.
However, he has defied predictions and kept going. Despite having just one functioning lung, he has taken up open water swimming, starting with just a mile in the Serpentine, which he admits exhausted him.
But joined by friends Angus Henderson, a financial services worker from Surrey, farmer Tom Liddell from Hampshire and George Richards, a surveyor from Somerset, they began training for their Alderney swim six months ago.
The two Hampshire residents practised in a gravel pit in Hampshire and also variously off the south coast, in the North Sea in Scotland and in Alderney. Their efforts culminated with their longest swim yet – the 10-mile feat on Saturday.
Mr McKinley said the challenge had been their way of telling cancer to ‘get stuffed’.
‘We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way,’ he said.
‘I was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago and despite the odds I’ve managed to still be here. A few years ago we started swimming for the Royal Marsden Hospital and that was a small one miler, and they gradually increased, raising funds en route. It was a way of saying thank you from all of us.’
Mr Richards added: ‘My mother was diagnosed with brain cancer last April. She fought it, but sadly died two weeks ago, so we were doing it for her as well.’
The four set off from the end of Alderney’s 900m-long breakwater at 7am on Saturday and struck out against the currents of the Swinge.
‘I’ve dreamed about swimming round Alderney for 42 years,’ said Mr McKinley.
‘But setting off from the back of the breakwater when it was pretty dark, pretty cold, pretty windy and choppy, and knowing how far we had to go was intimidating, I admit.
‘But as soon as we found the tide, though, the nerves calmed down and we managed to start making good ground.’
They were accompanied on their trip by Roland Gauvain in a kayak and Justin Hart in a Rib.
They passed the swimmers energy drinks and sugar-rich snacks, including tinned peaches, bananas and jelly babies, to help them overcome the challenges of the mission.
‘Eating while swimming was harder than we imagined,’ said Mr Lidell.
The part between Bluestone Bay and Hanging Rock was hard work, because by then they were against the tide.
‘I got hit by a jellyfish in my face an hour before the end, which was pretty painful,’ said Mr Richards.
‘I wouldn’t recommend that one. Touching the end of the breakwater again was a massive relief.’
Their efforts have raised money for Cancer Research and Alderney Wildlife Trust.
n To donate visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/swimalderney.