Gaye Greely has always loved the water, but little did she know that when she took up synchronised swimming, it would one day help save her life.
Hotel receptionist Ms Greely, 51, had no pain, no symptoms and no family history of cancer.
But after she was accidentally kicked in the breast during swimming training, she was shocked to discover that she had a grade 3 tumour.
Now she and her team are encouraging others to help raise money for cancer charities this month.
She said: “If it hadn’t have been for that incident, I would never have known it was there. It could have been a very different story.”
Ms Greely, from Seaford, East Sussex, originally took up swimming as a child to help her asthma.
She went on to be a speed swimmer and then switched to synchronised swimming and joined the Brighton Dolphin Synchronised Swimming team.
It was during one of their training sessions in early 2017 that she was accidentally kicked.
She said: “I didn’t think much of it at the time, but my breast was sore and eventually I found a lump. I was 48, so too young for mammogram screening.
“I went to the doctor, although cancer was the last thing on my mind. When they told me I had a 4cm, grade 3 tumour, I was very shocked.”
Ms Greely underwent chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy and then radiotherapy.
She had to stay out of the water because of the risk of infection, when she was wearing a portacath – a small device, placed under the skin to deliver drugs intravenously.
“It wasn’t an easy time but the thing that gutted me the most was that I had to miss a competition in Budapest!” she said.
But it was not long before Ms Greely was swimming again, first in the sea, and then back in the pool.
Now she and her team mates are ready to compete for more World Masters Championship medals.
She added: “Mags, my duet partner, had thyroid cancer back in the Eighties, and was my rock getting me through my cancer journey.
“I had amazing treatment at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. I still feel tired and get the odd twinge, but I feel much more like my old self now.”
The team are keen to encourage people to join them later this month for this year’s Swimathon.
Taking place at pools across the UK from March 20, the event helps raise money for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie charities.
Challenges range from 400m to the Triple 5k and people can participate individually or as part of a team.
As well as organised sessions, swimmers can choose their own time and venue by signing up to MySwimathon.
Laura Rogers, who runs the team with fellow coach Cara Griffiths, said: “We love the water and are more than happy to do our bit to help promote Swimathon.
“It’s particularly close to our hearts because of what Gaye and Mags have been through.
“So to help raise funds for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie is important to us.”
The team regularly wins medals at national and international competitions and has competed all over the world from New Zealand and Canada to Sweden and Slovakia.
For more information visit: https://swimathon.org/