Public Sector PR story tells of how Learn to Swim lessons are helping one young girl bounce back to health
An inspiring seven-year-old girl with a rare form of cancer is bouncing back after spending a year in hospital – thanks to her weekly swimming lessons.
Phoebe Lannigan, from Wishaw, North Lanarkshire was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis – which caused numerous tumours to develop around her body, including her arm, skull and ribs – when she was just two years old.
But Phoebe’s condition didn’t stop her from starting lessons through the national Learn to Swim Framework at Wishaw Sports Centre pool and discovering a love for the sport that has allowed her to make ‘remarkable’ progress to rebuild her health.
When she was five, Phoebe had to embark upon a chemotherapy regime and had to pause her swimming lessons as she spent 12 months in hospital.
The chemotherapy caused nerve and muscle damage as well as extreme exhaustion and pain, and Phoebe’s stamina became very low as she hadn’t been able to exercise in the time she was receiving treatment.
But through the Learn to Swim programme, Phoebe is now rediscovering her passion for the sport that has helped her to rebuild her strength and to inspire others in her class – as well as seeing her progress quickly through the levels.
Scottish Swimming’s Learn to Swim Framework, supported by Scottish Water and delivered by aquatic providers across Scotland, teaches children of all abilities from birth upwards.
Phoebe’s mother Sandra said: “The lessons have been excellent for Phoebe as she get very sore legs and tired easily. But with swimming, it doesn’t put a lot of stress on her joints or her muscles so is ideal.
“It can take up to two years to build up your fitness after such a long time in treatment, but thanks to her dedicated coach she’s been making some remarkable progress.”
Phoebe is still undergoing treatment and has frequent visits to the hospital for MRI’s to measure the tumour sites, but this doesn’t stop her swimming.
Phoebe’s swimming instructor, Mary Weir has been by her side since she first took to the pool.
Mary said: “After coming back from her time in hospital, we offered Phoebe one-to-one lessons, and adapted the classes slightly so that she could learn at her own pace and these have made a huge difference.
“Her next goal is to become ‘club ready’ – and she’s keen to progress to the swimming Club to join her 10 year old sister, Breagha.
“She inspires all the other kids in her class with her determination and the way that she gives everything 100%. Phoebe is an absolute star and my little friend.”
Brian Lironi, Director of Corporate Affairs for Scottish Water, said: “Phoebe’s story is inspirational and shows exactly why swimming lessons are so valuable for all young people – and equally important to show that there should be no barrier to learning to swim.
“We’re very proud to play our part in helping children like Phoebe and provide similar opportunities to more than 75,000 young people who have so far benefited from the Learn to Swim programme.”
The Learn to Swim Framework helps to create quality learn to swim environments for children from birth upwards where they can become competent, confident and safe swimmers with opportunities to progress through the aquatic pathway or to swim for fun.
The target is to reach 100,000 children across Scotland by 2020.
Fiona Paterson, Participation Programme Manager at Scottish Swimming said: “It’s was fantastic to see Phoebe’s determination and commitment to swimming overcoming adversity and still progressing at a phenomenal rate on the Learn to Swim Framework at North Lanarkshire Leisure.
“She is very enthusiastic, confident and most importantly – clearly had a love for swimming! We just want to make sure that children enjoy the sport of swimming and its teachers like Mary that ensure our Framework provides a quality learning environment which is fun too.”
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