After losing his beloved father to bowel and bladder cancer, Twickenham resident Andy Spencer (31) decided to undertake a year-long fundraising feat, in an effort to come to terms with his grief while giving back to a good cause.

In honour of his dad’s passion for swimming, Andy has been taking to the waters of the Thames and swimming a mile every day. Starting on the first anniversary of his father’s death last November, Andy plans to clock up 365 miles in 365 days.

To coincide with Carers Week (6-12th June 2022), Andy is sharing his family’s experience of caring for their loved one. Andy is raising funds for cancer charity Macmillan in recognition of the support he received whilst caring for his dad, Francis Spencer, and for others who need to turn to Macmillan when they have caring needs.

Andy is halfway through his challenge and has already raised over £30,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Andy explained his motivation to take on this massive challenge: “On Sunday 29th November 2020 our world fell apart. The kindest, most genuine of any man I’ve ever met, left this world. He was our wonderful dad, a doting husband, and a fun-loving gentle grandad. He was 74, he was fit, he was healthy. Cancer stole him from us, and we had to watch as he fought this painful, heart-wrenching disease.

Francis Spencer

Andy and his family took on round-the-clock caring duties: “He couldn’t and wouldn’t stay in hospital, as stubborn as a mule, he even put Houdini to shame when they tried to admit him. He wanted to be home, he wanted to be with us. We agreed – we wanted him home too – but we knew it would be a long, painful road ahead. Home is where he spent the end of his colourful life, with us caring for him, around the clock. Seeing your loved ones in pain and helpless is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

“My mum, myself and my sisters took it in turns to care for Dad. He needed medicating, toileting, feeding and love. We just about managed it as a team of four, working and caring around our full-time jobs and families. It almost broke us. This is the reason Macmillan is so important. We were lucky enough to have each other, living so close and being the close family we are. I know others do not have such a luxury and I know many wouldn’t have coped with what we went through. Macmillan are there to do what most families cannot. To give the care and attention to people and families suffering from the impact of cancer. They can offer the physical and emotional support families desperately need during this time. When Dad died, I wanted to help bring attention to such a worthy cause. They offered me support when I reached out to them and I realised I needed to help myself, as well as help Macmillan.

“I needed a goal, a purpose to help with my grieving process. I chose to swim a mile a day for a year starting on Dad’s one-year-anniversary. I am not a swimmer but swimming in my dad’s once happy place, now mine, brings me a greater comfort.

“Swimming is therapeutic, swimming gives me a release, swimming keeps my dad’s memory alive for us all. Some days I love my swims, some days are painful, some days I struggle to prepare myself mentally and physically, but I am determined to complete my challenge and swim day in and day out for this amazing charity.

“I’m halfway through but I’ve got this, I must have inherited this from dad because he never quit, he never gave up on anything. Let’s help support Macmillan and give them the ability to change lives.”

Andy’s family have run the famous Hammertons Ferry since 2003. Their pedestrian and cycle ferry service links the river’s northern bank, near Marble Hill House in Twickenham, with its southern bank in Ham.

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.

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