Northumberland woman with a stoma completes winter swimming challenge
An Alnwick woman is now hoping to become the first person with a stoma to swim the English Channel.
Gill Castle has spent the winter doing dips in the freezing waters of the North Sea – or in an ice bath in her garden during lockdown.
“It’s been one heck of an experience, that’s for sure,” said Gill, who has done them only in a bikini and hat.
Her aim was to break down fear and stigma around swimming with a stoma bag and of birth trauma.
In 2011, she gave birth to her son, Sam, six weeks premature.
During the birth his heart rate dropped and during the rush to get him out Gill sustained a major tear which resulted in a permanent stoma (colostomy).
It took time for Gill to find her feet, thanks to exercise and an optimistic outlook.
In 2015 she joined a cycling club and has since done a half ironman triathlon, scuba diving and sky diving.
Swimming in the sea at Boulmer or taking to local rivers and lakes three times a week since November, has raised over £9,500 for the Birth Trauma Association.
Gill said: "I’ve had women contacting me saying that ‘because I’ve seen you out in your bikini I’ve taken my first bath for five years because they didn’t want to have a bath with their stoma.
“I know a lot of people with stoma bags are fearful about going swimming because they’re worried about people looking at them, they’re worried about the bag leaking, about the bag not staying on.
“It’s such an unspoken topic of conversation, having injuries through childbirth. When that happens to you, you’re only really surrounded by other women who have suffered traumatic births. You’re not surrounded by women that have recovered because they’re off, living their lives. So I just want to be the person I was looking for at that time to say’ you can get through this, you can smile again, it’s possible!
"You can do whatever you want with a stoma, and I think sometimes you just need to see somebody doing these activities to make you realise all the possibilities that are out there. I just want people to have more confidence in themselves really.
"Channel solo next!”
To sponsor Gill visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stomachameleon