THE BIG ONE……….19th March 2016 we will be hosting a gala dinner at The Pines Hotel, Chorley. This is to tie in and celebrate World Downs Syndrome Day on the 21st. Further details will be released but we will start selling tickets very shortly and the event will comprise of a three course meal, entertainment and various fun bits and pieces.
Chorley striker Josh Hine has signed up for the Staffordshire half IronMan in June 2016. He has expressed a desire to use the event raise awareness of Twincess by doing it in the official Twincess triathlon kit. fantastic gesture. Thanks Josh
I recently swam the Great Manchester Swim together with my big brother Matthew, all for our gorgeous Twincess girls, Abigail and Isobel. Let me start by telling you all about them and why we were doing this swim.
Twincess was started in June 2011 with the birth of my neices Abigail and Isobel, identical twins both born with Downs Syndrome. Twincess was set up to raise awarness and educate people about DS and to try and work at removing the stereotype and stigma attached to DS.
Matt wanted Twincess to offer support to families like us who were thrown into a very scary world and show people and educate people that its not so scary after all. The scariest thing about it all now looking back is all the rubbish found on the internet. All medically based and not words from families like us who had lived DS from the very beginning.
I offered help at all Twincess events and loved to be involved with helping spread the positive message that Twincess wanted to share. Matt did the swim in 2013 and said i should do the swim with him. Didn’t even stop to think, I replied ‘yes sure ‘. Didn’t think anything of it and was just a flippant response. Oh well got 12 months to go they’ll forget about it, it’ll be ok. Time passed and nothing was said, phew Id got out of that one.
The launch of Twincess new website arrived March 2014 World Downs Syndrome Day. As I looked at the new website with pride of all Matt and Jodi’s hard work, I read the up and coming events and it stated ‘Daddy and Aunty Gemma are doing the Great Manchester Swim this July 2014’. I had not got away with it, how I could get out of it now. Matt hounded me for weeks, kept asking if I had registered for the swim. I had to do it, after all it was for an amazing cause, our girls and raising awareness about how rewarding and fulfilling children with downs can be. Ok I bit the bullet and registered, to make sure no backing out I announced it on Facebook. Best get in the pool and start training now.
So I got in the pool for the first time in years. Oh my… what had I let myself in for? I did 20 lengths and got out the pool and couldn’t walk, felt sick, dizzy, disorientated. Wow this was going to be harder than I thought. The weeks passed and I got a little better and finally managed to do 1 mile in the pool, it felt great. For the first time I thought, yes I can do this. Matt then text, ‘you got your wet suit yet? I’ve found one for you if not?’ He was persistent I’ll give him that. So I ordered the wetsuit and started to feel a little excited about the challenge now. It arrived and I txt Matt, ‘it’s here!’ he replied ‘Cool we can go to Salford Quays on Saturday to train’. Oh no, started to feel bit more real and reality hit. Cold, green, open water really wasn’t my cup of tea. I hated the sea. Before I could find an excuse to get out of it he said ‘don’t worry mums having the kids, you’ve no excuse’ He knew me too well.
So off we went. Was the beginning of May and a little nippy but not too bad. Adrenaline kicked in and felt nervous and excited. People randomly jumping in water and casually swimming round. I mean how bad could it be? Wet suit on, in we went. Matt knew how worried I was and protective big brother role kicked in. He stayed by my side every stoke of the way round the 450m course. He kept asking ‘you ok sis?’ ‘yeah course, fine’ I replied when really I felt shocking, terrified even. It was so cold I could hardly breathe, my feet felt like blocks of ice, my arms felt like lead, my face hit the cold water and I panicked. Ice cold sold dark green, almost black water. Debris floated passed and I envisioned all sorts in the water. This was pure hell, I wasn’t moving but every time Matt asked ‘you ok sis’. ‘ yeah fine’ would be my response. Did 2 laps and Matt said ‘come on let’s leave it there for today.’ ‘Thank goodness for that’, I thought. Back in the changing rooms, and I felt like I was going to pass out, or be sick, like I wasn’t really there. I had to pull myself together and got changed and painted a smile on, back out to Matt. As I walked out changing rooms, Matt said, ‘how was that, ok?’ I faked it, ‘Yeah not bad’. All the time thinking I would never be able to do the mile in that water. The phrase came to me ‘God only gives you as much as you can handle’. Id had this phrase in the back of my mind since the girls were born, usually felt comfort from it, but not this time. Surely he had it wrong, didn’t feel like I could handle this at all.
I decided to get back in the pool and concentrate on getting the distance covered. Matt then said we should go to Three Sisters to do some training in open water as it’s shallow and warmer and would be better for me, he wasn’t wrong. Two sessions in Three Sisters and I felt loads more confident. I was secretly excited about the swim now as the days crept closer. Matts confidence in me kept me going and seeing his ‘get up and go’ attitude and drive to do all these different activities and challenges still to this day gives me so much inspiration. He does it all for the love of his girls, I couldn’t be prouder of him.
The week before the swim I didn’t sleep that well and felt sick with nerves. Kept the front up and kept smiling when people would be talking about it or asking me how I was. However, when I was on my own and thinking about the swim my eyes would fill with tears and my thoughts went back to the text message on that Tuesday night from Matt telling us the news about the girls and DS, couldn’t help but cry. Then my thoughts would quickly shift to how much progress the girls had made and what a delight they are now. They had overcome so many obsticles and challenges in their short life, this swim felt like my very own challenge/obsitlce to overcome, and felt such a small hurdle in comparisson. How proud I am to be able to say im Aunty Gemma. Id fought thoughts of reasons why I couldn’t do this swim for months now, but everytime I just got my two perfect reasons why I had to do it, Abigail and Isobel. I had to do this, for the girls, for my big brother. I couldn’t let any of them down. An emotional week but tried my best to remain positive to everyone around me.
Saturday 19th July, the day had arrived. Hadn’t slept a wink but woke with slight excited, nervous butterflies. I cried all morning, it was time so off we headed to Salford Quays with Mum and the kids.
Heart started to race as we made our way to the start line, i tried so hard to smile and not cry. Gave the kids big hugs and few pics then off me and Matt went. Registered, through the check in. This is really going to happen, it’s here. Feeling nerves but the atmosphere picked me up, quick warm up. Announcement that we had a 1 minute count down. Matt had been at my side the whole day, he looked down at me gave me big hug and squeeze ‘good luck sis’ my goggles filled with tears… and then….. Pink Wave are you ready…. The hooter sounded, we were off.
My mind was full of thoughts of the training we’d done, my family and friends all there to support me, but mostly Abigail and Isobel, my two reasons why I was doing this and proud to be doing it, they were on the bridge waiting for Aunty Gemma to swim under, so emotional. I soon snapped out of this daze when I dived into the water. Wasn’t that bad actually. The crowd was fab, the rain had stopped and I was finally swimming in Salford Quays. The swim up to the bridge was fine, I stopped just before the bridge, as id promised Grace and Joe id wave to them, and I looked up and saw the sea of Pink Twincess T-shirts there for me and Matt. I quickly waved and swam on. I then strangely started to feel very alone after seeing them all up there on the bridge and me so far down in the water and panic started again, there didn’t seem to be anyone around me. Was I that far behind everyone, what happens if I can’t do it, where is every one. I took a breathe to compose myself and heard an almighty ‘COME ON MUMMY! I saw pink Twincess T-shirts and all my friends & family, Grace and Joe shouting at the side of the quays. They were all walking with me, I wasn’t alone after all. Could feel my eyes welling up again and knew I had to compose myself. Every stroke of the mile I swam I had my friends and family literally by my side. Felt amazing. I really hope this is how our girls feel with all our family and their friends by their side every step of their little journey.
I could see the huge orange buoys indicating the finish. Wow, Id nearly done it. I swam through the buoys knowing that Matt would have finished ages ago, carried on another few strokes and saw the white ramp. I had actually done it, it felt incredible. I stumbled out the water and up the walk way, took my goggles off and looked around in a gaze. There was Matt, my big brother, waiting for me to cross the finish line with a big smile on his face. He gave me a big hug and said ‘you’ve done it well done’ that was it flood gates opened and I wept like a baby. I was physically and emotionally drained. I saw Carl and Joe at the finish line too and just broke down in Carls arms. All I could hear was the words ‘We’re so proud of you’.
The biggest challenge of my life and id survived it. Not only that I did it in a pretty decent time too. The phrase ‘God only gives you as much as you can handle’ maybe he was right after all. I had overcome my fear of open water and tackled this challenge head on and come out of it with a totally different view of my capabilities. Not too dissimilar to the fear of the unknown we all faced as a family with Down’s Syndrome.
I could not have done this without my big brother or the girls who inspire me every day. As a family we have tackled this head on and we all share a totally different view on Down’s Syndrome now.