Blood cancer charity set to benefit from 5km Great East Swim family tribute
PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 March 2017
When Suffolk-born Andy Reilly takes to the water this summer for the county’s biggest swimming challenge, it will be a tribute to two of his closest family members who were both struck with blood cancers.
Andy, who has signed up for the Great East Swim at Alton Water on June 17, will tackle the 5km challenge in memory of his beloved mum Dorothy, who died from leukaemia a decade ago.
Then in March 2014, his brother Chris was also diagnosed with double hit grey cell lymphoma – a very rare form of the disease – and was given a 20% chance of survival.
Thankfully three years on, Chris is now in remission and Andy will be using the swim to raise money for the specialist charity Bloodwise to give other people with blood cancers a second chance at life.
Chris spent months in hospital battling the disease and its side effects and was fortunate enough to find a strong non-genetic stem cell match which led to a stem cell transplant in November 2015.
He has been in remission for the past two years and has recently moved with his wife and three children from Solihull near Birmingham onto a houseboat near Woodbridge, where his mother lived.
Dorothy died after a six month battle with acute myeloid leukaemia in 2007. Andy, 39, believes had she been diagnosed in 2017, she would have had a very different outcome thanks to major advances in research.
He said: “Mum loved the east of England; she was a keen sailor and loved living in Woodbridge.
“As a kid, she encouraged me to earn my distance badges swimming open water in the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry, so it felt really fitting to return to Suffolk to take part in the Great East Swim.”
Andy said it came as a “huge shock” when his brother was diagnosed with Lymphoma.
“He was given something like a 20% chance of living but he managed to pull through thanks to the amazing treatment he was given,” Andy continued. “It made me think how lucky we had been and I think that if mum had been diagnosed now, her outcome would have been very different.”
Andy will be one of 2,000 people who take on the 5k distance and he will be supported by family and friends who are travelling to watch him on the day.
He added: “I hope that I, along with hundreds of other fundraisers, will be able to help more people get the outcome my brother has had.”
To support Andy at the Great East Swim, visit his fundraising page
Entries for all distances at the Great East Swim are now open and you can enter here.