Nothing in life is as heart-rending as seeing a loved one suffering from a serious illness.
Some people are able to cope, some fall apart. And others channel their energy into trying to fight the disease that is attacking the person close to them.
There’s no right or wrong way of dealing with something so personal.
However, Sheffield-based Great Britain swimmer Lewis Coleman, aged 21, as The Star revealed on Wednesday, has taken the latter route and is not only trying to raise vital money to combat the acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which his mum Mags, aged 48, is battling, he’s also trying to break a world record.
Lewis, who is national champion for the 200 metres medley, said the challenge came about to raise funds so that a trial treatment, used to keep his mum alive, is available for all.
He said: “Once diagnosed my mum was admitted into hospital and prescribed a course of treatment which involved mainly chemotherapy. Initially, she did five blocks of treatment lasting from July to December 2012.
“Unfortunately, the chemotherapy wasn’t effective, so she was offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial with the new drug Blinatumomab.
“She conducted two cycles of the treatment each of six weeks duration. By taking part in the trial she was able to undertake a fairly normal lifestyle at home rather than remain in hospital, due to the trial drug being much less intrusive than the chemotherapy.
“After the conclusion of these two treatment cycles my mum was considered to be in remission.
“The Blinatumomab treatment was to prepare her for a bone marrow transplant as without it the cancer cells would just keep coming back.
The only way the transplant was possible was if the cancer cells had become ‘under control’ and manageable, and without the access to the clinical trial of Blinatumomab the road that my mum took to the transplant would have been a lot more difficult and potentially fatal for her.
“With this in my mind I decided that I wanted to raise money for the research and care of people with leukaemia.
“What shocked me the most was that hardly anyone had access to the drug.”
The record Lewis is trying to break is the 100 x 100m swimming relay which cstands at one hour 37 minutes and 53 seconds.
And he’ll have a little help from his friends.
He said: “I thought, what I could do to raise money to support the treatment that my mum had received?
“With swimming being such a big part of my life, and my family’s life, and with my mum having a massive part to play in me getting to the position that I am in today in the sport, I thought it would be fitting if the event I organised was related to swimming.
“I have always had big dreams and have always loved a challenge and with this I was no different, therefore I decided that I would like to break a Guinness World Record.
“The record-attempting team will be made up of past and present GB international swimmers, past and present GB Olympians along with National standard club swimmers, members of the City of Sheffield Swim Squad and other clubs around the country, along with people who are close to me in my life.
“I especially wanted the record to have a community feel to it and that of people coming together for a great cause. Within the team will be Olympic, Paralympic, World, European and Commonwealth medallists.”
Lewis’ team reads like a who’s who of British swimming.
Double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, five-time Olympian Mark Foster, four-time Olympian Karen Pickering MBE and Olympic bronze medallist Steve Parry lead the way for former British superstars but there is also nearly the full complement of Lewis’s contemporaries in the current national squad.
The list includes Sheffield’s Ellie Faulkner and Rotherham pair Becky Turner and Joe Faulkner – all three competed at London 2012 – as well as world champion Liam Tancock.
The charity attempt will take place at Ponds Forge on February 1.
Lewis says it will be a full day of activities: “To start off the day and the event I will be holding a series of swim clinics which will be led by Olympic and Paralympic coach Russ Barber and supported by Olympic, Paralympic, World, European and Commonwealth medallists and GB international swimmers.
“My hope is that I can also involve children or siblings of children who have suffered with leukaemia or receiving ongoing treatment for leukaemia in the swim clinics.
“After the swim clinics the world record attempt will take place and also there will be a swimathon at the same time as the record attempt so people who aren’t fast enough for the relay can get involved and swim for leukaemia and help to raise money too!”
* For details of how to donate to Lewis’ record attempt and the full blog from Mags Coleman visit www.justgiving.com/LewisColeman or to buy tickets www.swim4leukaemia.com
* The record attempt at Ponds Forge starts at 3pm on February 1 with swimming clinics beginning at 1pm.
I’m lucky to be still here and still fighting
Lewis’s mum Mags has written a blog about her experience of dealing with her illness. Here she reflects on telling Lewis and younger son Oliver.
When someone tells you that you have cancer it seems like you are in a dream, “no way, this can’t be happening to me” I thought.
So after some research on the Internet it suddenly dawned on me over the next couple of days that I was in serous trouble as lots of people die from Leukaemia, It could happen to me and it scared the living daylights out of me.
I wasn’t able to sleep properly for days, our initial thoughts were, what and how are we going to tell our two boys, especially our youngest Oliver who was only eight (now 10) at the time. He was so brave.
I was really proud of him trying to hold on to his tears as he tried to make since of what we was telling him, Lewis was a little older and realised the serious implications to this illness, only this time it was me and my husband, Joe, who was fighting back the tears as we had to tell him over Facetime
We had to put on a brave face and be positive, telling your family that you have cancer is not a pleasant experience.
Being in hospital so often and at home has given me plenty of time to reflect, I consider myself as being lucky as I’m still here, still fighting, I realised that if it wasn’t for the trial Blinatumomab I may not get another Christmas with my boys.