Over 60 swimmers braved the bad weather conditions for Breast Cancer Ireland. Photo: Dave Stanley

Bettystown sea swimmers brave freezing waters in honour of local breast cancer survivor

More than 60 'pink dippers' braved the freezing waters of Bettystown Beach yesterday in honour of a local breast cancer survivor who says sea swimming saved her life.

The Bettystown Swim Sisters Group has raised €2377 so far for Breast Cancer Ireland.

The Halloween swim was inspired by 72 year old cancer survivor Jean Strong who puts her recovery and good health down to the benefits of the sea.

Jean was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2019, just weeks after her husband Ronald (77) was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, cancer of the blood.

The day after she finished six weeks of intense radiotherapy in September 2019 the Bettystown pensioner joined a group of local women who brave the cold waters of the seaside town everyday and says “she has never looked back.”

"I still get up to go at 7am every morning, it's addictive," said Jean.

Cllr Sharon Tolan was a part of the crew who had a dip in sea for charity yesterday

"We had a great fundraiser yesterday, they were about 60 participating in the swim and lots of people from all over came down to support it," she added.

"It would have been much better if the weather wasn't so bad but we just had to go with it and despite the bad conditions we all had a ball."

Jean has four children and five grandchildren and is originally from Tullamore in Co, Offaly but has been living in the seaside town for the past 38 years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer just a few weeks after her husband Ronald was told he was also suffering from the illness. Speaking about the challenging time she said:

“My husband had cancer at the time so it was a double whammy we suffered in this house.

“I was just getting my head around my husband Ronald’s cancer when one morning I was in the shower and found a lump.

“The whole thing went into action fairly quickly. I attended the Mater Private and was treated by a wonderful consultant Professor Stokes and I was diagnosed at that stage with step 2 Breast Cancer.

“Looking back at it, I don’t know how we coped but we just got up and got on with it, we didn’t have a choice.

“We were both in our 70s, so it was either that or go down under.”

“It has made us stronger people at the end of the day."

Breast Cancer survivor Jean Strong (far right) says sea swimming "saved her life"

Sadly Ronald's cancer has returned and he is going through treatment with Jean maintaining that sea swimming is what is getting her through the tough days.

Local Councillor Sharon Tolan who took part in the swim said:

"We took to the water in honour of one of our founding members Jean Strong who is a breast cancer survivor.

"€977 was raised in our bucket collection and online donations are currently at €1400.

"Jean ran amuck and had curry and stew waiting for us when we came out, she's a great cook so we had a lovely feast on the beach afterwards."

Tolan added that sea swimming in the area has become a phenomenon inspired by the pandemic.

"It has become massive," she said. People have reconnected with the local area and reconnected with the beach. Last year I did a survey and it was only online for a week because it was in preparation for an application for funding for beach shelters and 495 people responded and they were all regular swimmers on the Meath coastline."

The local councillor hopes that people will take the message from the fundraiser and see their doctors if they find any changes in their bodies.

"The message from the event is don't forget to check your breasts regularly, and have any any changes checked out immediately," she said.

There's still time to donate by clicking here