Cold dip for good causes

DIPPING a toe in the North Sea is a chilly prospect at the best of times, but doing so on a wintry Christmas Day is quite a different matter altogether.

DIPPING a toe in the North Sea is a chilly prospect at the best of times, but doing so on a wintry Christmas Day is quite a different matter altogether.

And yet, that icy thought didn't hold Karen Ehlert back from a festive challenge, because this time last year she thought she might not actually be here to do it at all.

The 47-year-old, from Iken, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 and last year it was found to have spread to her lungs and bones – including her spine.

She said: "It was this time last year that I had just completed all the tests and they told me that the cancer had spread.

"When I got the results they told me that if the therapy did not work I would have six months left and if it works, who knows.

"I had been invited to see the swim last year and Mark Fairweather who organises it was so supportive I thought that if I am here next year I will do the swim."

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True to her word, Karen joined a group of swimmers at Aldeburgh on Christmas morning – intent on spending at least two minutes in the chilly waters.

Speaking straight after the charitable effort, she said: "It was not as bad as I expected, although my feet are chilly, to say the least."

People have been taking part in the swim for the last few years, which has been organised by Suffolk solicitor Mark Fairweather.

This year the money raised will go to Medicines Sans Frontiers and to an East European hospital.

Karen's money will go to Medicines Sans Frontiers.

Before she became poorly, Karen worked as a Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist but had to retire when she became too ill to work. She currently does a lot of volunteer work and helps with research on a number of health committees.

She first discovered a pea-sized lump under her arm in 1996 but tests came back clear.

Two years later her right breast started to look misshapen and within a week she was referred to a diagnostic clinic where it was confirmed she had cancer.

Karen was given different treatments through drugs and chemotherapy and also had a radical mastectomy followed by radiotherapy.

After it was discovered the cancer had spread last year, Karen began a treatment with a drug called Xeloda, which changed her life dramatically.

She said: "The physical change has been tremendous. I used to struggle with breathing. Now I am far more active than I have been in a long time."

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