Worthing woman’s swim challenge followed shock diagnosis

Cathy Servante, who has osteoporosis, says taking part in the Aspire Channel Swim is the least she can do to help the charity
Cathy Servante, who has osteoporosis, says taking part in the Aspire Channel Swim is the least she can do to help the charity

Spinal cord injury charity Aspire is calling for challenge-seekers to take part in its annual Channel Swim.

Findon Valley counsellor and former teacher Cathy Servante completed last year’s swim and hopes to encourage others to follow suit.

The 63-year-old has osteoporosis in the bottom of her spine and is inspired by the courage shown by people with more serious spinal injuries.

Cathy says she is ‘just a very ordinary woman’ who would not be able to manage all the things she does without her husband Laurie.

She said: “I knew a little about the charity Aspire, so I researched a bit further and was amazed to read about such inspirational people who don’t stop living despite horrendous injuries but seem to find an inner strength to do over and above able-bodied people. I thought it would be a cause I’d like to fundraise for.”

Cathy started taking part in the Aspire Channel Swim because she loves swimming and wanted a particular focus.

“I had just been diagnosed with osteoporosis in my hips and spine, which was a shock as I’m a generally healthy person,” she explained.

“It made me think about people with severe spinal injuries and having to depend on a wheelchair, and how restrictive that must be.

“In fact, I felt a bit sorry for myself to be honest, thinking I could end up like that if I didn’t take the medication or it didn’t work. It also made me more determined to do whatever it takes to stay as healthy as possible.”

Throughout her life, Cathy has always been drawn to supporting vulnerable people. She was a teacher for children with a variety of special needs for nearly 40 years. She retrained as a counsellor just over ten years ago and now works with vulnerable children and teenagers in school, plus adults in private practice.

Cathy said: “I’ve always loved working with people who find life challenging because they may not fit into the norm, because they have such inner strength and determination to conquer anything. This in turn inspires me to do what I do.

“I have lots of hobbies from singing, gardening, music, theatre, walking my dogs and, of course, swimming. I aim to swim three to four miles each week, all year.

“Swimming has helped my general breathing, helped my body shape and strengthened muscle I didn’t even know I had. Once I started the channel swim, my husband, who was afraid of water, decided to come and try to swim a few lengths and although he doesn’t officially do the Aspire challenge, he is now swimming regularly weekly. I’m very proud of his achievements.”

Aspire hopes to have 7,000 swimmers for this year’s Channel Swim, taking place in September, helping to support people affected by a spinal cord injury.

The challenge is to swim 22 miles, the length of the English Channel, in a swimming pool in any way possible. This year, it is all about the people taking part, empowering them to achieve things they did not think they could.

Visit www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk for more information and to sign up.