Brave mum to take on English Channel

MS sufferer Helen Garnett prepares to swim the channel for charity
MS sufferer Helen Garnett prepares to swim the channel for charity

A woman from Harrogate who has Multiple Sclerosis is to follow a childhood dream and swim the English Channel for charity.

Helen Garnett, 45, has always had a keen interest in swimming and, as a student at Harrogate Ladies College, was captain of the school team.

She was diagnosed with MS 12 years ago but is determined to go ahead with her dream.

“I would never say that I ‘suffer with’ MS, I am living with it,” she said. “Most of the time it doesn’t stop me from doing anything.

“When I was a child I had heard about somebody swimming the Channel and I thought ‘one day I would like to do that’. I think I was too young to appreciate exactly what it involved.”

Helen lost her husband, Nigel Franklin, to cancer four years ago. After his death, she started swimming as a form of therapy and now she wants to raise £10,000 for the MS Society and £10,000 for Cancer Research.

“I wanted to support these charities because my children lived for most of their lives with cancer,” she says. “One of my sisters also has MS and when I was first diagnosed the MS Society was my first ports of call; they were very helpful.”

Helen, who now lives in Pateley Bridge, trains in Semerwater in the Yorkshire Dales, as well as making trips down to Dover every other weekend.

Her fiancee Richard paddles beside her in the canoe while she trains and he, along with his son Tom and her son Ben, will make up a support team for her as she attempts the challenge between September 12 and 17.

“I’m not a particularly fast swimmer; I’m a plodder, but I just keep going and going,” she said, adding that she hopes to finish within 18 to 20 hours.

“My support team can throw me a bottle of liquid carbohydrates and other nourishment while I tread water - we’ve found jelly babies are quite good.

“The thing I am most worried about is being stung by jellyfish.”

And there are risks involved. “It is classified as an extreme sport,” said Helen. “More people have been successful in getting to the top of Everest than swimming the Channel.”

However, for Helen, failure is not something she is considering. “I’m pretty determined and I am being very positive.

“I want to fulfil the sponsors’ confidence in me – and a large part of what they are supporting is my determination.”

For more information and to 'sponsor her visit teamshelenschannelchallenge.