English Channel charity challenge for Harrogate 55-year-old breast cancer patient

Breast cancer patient Karen McMillan-Jones is swimming the length of the English Channel to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research.
Breast cancer patient Karen McMillan-Jones is swimming the length of the English Channel to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research.

A 55-year-old breast cancer patient from Harrogate is preparing to swim the length of the English Channel to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research.

Karen McMillan-Jones hopes to inspire others by completing the 22-mile challenge in the swimming pool at the town’s Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Gym.

Karen, who has been medically retired from her job in the Women’s Unit at Harrogate District Hospital following her cancer diagnosis, starts her challenge on February 21.

Karen said: “Since being diagnosed with cancer I’ve been on a mission to become as fit as possible through incorporating lifestyle changes to my diet and physical activities.

"I decided to join a gym and went for an induction session at Nuffield where I was shown how to use the equipment and weights.

"But I’ve always been a bit of a swimmer and the pool was beckoning more. I feel like I can keep going for ever and ever. I found myself going in the pool almost every day.

“A friend told me that her daughter had swum the equivalent of the Channel and I decided that would be a great challenge for me.

"I thought I’ve got cancer, I’ve faced chemotherapy, and if I can go through that there’s nothing I can’t do.

"I decided to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research because I want the money to stay in our region and benefit people I know.”

The challenge will see Karen swim a total of 1,804 lengths and she aims to finish the distance in less than a month.

Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer, which had spread to her liver, in January 2016 and began a course of chemotherapy in February.

Now Karen takes a hormone therapy to contain the cancer and attends regular check-ups but has also had to balance her diagnosis with caring for her elderly mother, who suffers from dementia.

And despite knowing her treatment has been palliative, meaning her cancer may never be cured, she said she feels well and is keen to live life to the full.

She said: “When you get a cancer diagnosis you realise what’s important in life. I’m lucky to have had great support from my family and friends, and my faith has also got me through it.

"Whatever’s around the corner I’m going to face it with a positive attitude, and I hope that through my fundraising I can inspire people. Cancer isn’t a death sentence anymore.”

Louise Robinson, Regional Fundraiser for North Yorkshire at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “We’re incredibly proud that Karen has chosen to raise money for our charity. She’s been a huge inspiration to us all and we’re amazed by the way she has faced her cancer with such positivity.

“The money she receives in sponsorship will help to improve cancer outcomes in Yorkshire by raising awareness of cancer and how to prevent it, promoting screening programmes to increase early detection and funding innovative research projects. We wish Karen the very best of luck in her Channel swim – we know she can do it.”

Click here to sponsor Karen or for more information about fundraising for Yorkshire Cancer Research, click here.