Friday, February 28, 2020 Katie takes the plunge for Swimathon 2020 “I feel free when I’m swimming and I love it. I’ve made some great friends since starting at Carnegie Swimming Club. The coaches are brilliant and have helped give me confidence and get my strength back after cancer." Courageous Katie Pake, who lost her leg to cancer, celebrated her 12th birthday on February 11 and has inspired her team mates at Carnegie Swimming Club to support Swimathon 2020, the world’s biggest annual swimming fundraiser to raise money for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie. With a variety of distances- 400m, 1.5K, 2.5K, 5K and the Triple 5K, Swimathon offers a challenge for everyone, while people can participate individually or as part of a team. The big Swimathon weekend takes place over the weekend of March 27 to March 29 at pools across Scotland. Swimmers can also choose to sign up to MySwimathon, which enables people to participate in Swimathon from March 20 to April 5 at a time and venue that suits them best. Katie, from Coaltown of Balgonie, who trains three times a week with Carnegie Swimming Club has made a splash winning medals in the pool since recovering from cancer. Now she’s set her sights on going all the way to the Paralympics. And Katie who takes off her prosthetic limb to swim is determined to help people going through cancer today. Katie said: “I feel free when I’m swimming and I love it. “I’ve made some great friends since starting at Carnegie Swimming Club. The coaches are brilliant and have helped give me confidence and get my strength back after cancer. Now I have busy weeks. Mondays are football training, Tuesdays and Wednesdays swimming, then wheelchair racing on Thursdays followed by swimming again on a Sunday. It’s all go but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Katie was diagnosed with bone cancer on June 16 2017 at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. Her parents Carol, 51, and Grant ,48, had taken her to the doctor after Katie developed a painful knee which had been stopping her from doing the sports she loves. Katie started chemotherapy treatment that summer and was scheduled to have surgery in September 2017 with medics hopeful at first that they could remove the cancer but save her leg. It was a hammerblow when it was discovered that the cancer had also spread to her spine and hips. Katie started a new intense chemotherapy treatment and it was a relief when tests showed the cancer had gone from her spine and hips. Just two days before Katie’s tenth birthday on February 9 2018, Katie endured an eight-hour operation known as rotationplasty to remove the cancer from her right leg. Surgeons, who removed the middle section of Katie’s leg, reattached her foot and ankle to her thigh back to front to create a new knee joint. This made it easier for Katie to wear a prosthetic limb. Ahead of the operation, caring Katie asked for the words, “Please recycle” to be written on the section of leg which was to be removed- telling the doctors she wanted the tissue to be donated to medical research to help other people with cancer. Katie endured further chemotherapy, fighting flu as well as other infections. She completed treatment at the end of March 2018 and the family were delighted to hear the news that there was no sign of cancer. Katie was fitted with her first prosthetic leg in August 2018 slowly building up her strength again, graduating from a wheelchair to a walking frame then crutches to move around. She received a new prosthetic leg in September last year and now is able to walk again unaided as well as swim. Carnegie Swimming Club development coach Stefan Hoggan-Radu leads a squad of 29 swimmers aged between nine and 14 who train at Cowdenbeath Leisure Centre with Katie. Stefan said: “I’m extremely proud of Katie. She’s a happy, smiley, confident young lady who has come back from challenging circumstances and has a positive impact on everyone in the squad. She demonstrates true talent in the pool and I can see her becoming a Paralympian one day. “We’re happy to support Swimathon as a club and will be setting our swimmers the longer distance challenges. But I think it’s great that Swimathon is open to everyone. It’s such a fun and simple way to encourage people to dip their toe in the water and get swimming- all while supporting two incredible charities. It really doesn’t matter if you’re not the fittest or the fastest. I hope swimmers young and old, new and experienced will dive in and help thousands of families affected by cancer.” Swimathon, which is the world’s biggest annual swimming fundraiser, has raised more than £52m for charities since it began in 1986. Organisers hope that in this Olympic year, participants will help to make 2020 a Swimathon record breaker by raising more than £2.2m for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie. Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, is keen to emphasis you don’t need to be a super swimmer to take part in Swimathon. She said: “Whether you’re a champion swimmer or prefer to stick to the shallow end, there’s a Swimathon challenge for all – so we hope everyone will grab their caps and costumes and sign up now. “There are lots of great benefits to taking part, not least the chance to enjoy the water while raising money for causes which are close to the hearts of so many. Each length participants swim will help make a difference to people affected by cancer.” Not only will taking part help to raise money, it has mental and physical health benefits too. Moderate exercise such as swimming can help build stamina, burn calories and keep a healthy body weight, which reduces the risk of a range of diseases including cancer. Swimming regularly is also gentle on the joints,can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve sleep patterns. Mark Winton, Head of Community Fundraising at Marie Curie, said: “Over the years, Swimathon has raised millions for charities including Marie Curie, which has enabled us to provide care and support to more people living with a terminal illness and their families, helping them make the most of the time they have together. We are proud to be part of such a prestigious and much-loved event.” To sign up to Swimathon 2020, or for more information, fundraising ideas and training plans, visit swimathon.org. For further information, please contact Lisa Adams on 07713 687200 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos courtesy of Lesley Martin.