Step one. Get into the pool.

In this three-part series “breast cancer thriver”, Lia Halsall, gives us a raw and honest account of her journey from diagnosis through to rehabilitation, using swimming as a mental and physical aid.

On 20th November 2012 I received a phone call at work from The Wesley Breast Clinic in Brisbane. My doctor rang to confirm that my biopsy results were back, that the results were positive and as I had already suspected, I had breast cancer. I was only 41.

For most people that would be a pivotal moment in their life, forever etched in stone. Not for me. For me, it came as such a relief because now I knew what I was dealing with and I just wanted to get on with the task at hand.

Cancer has been in my family for my entire life, so I had no fear as far as surgery and treatment were concerned. It also wasn’t terminal so I had no fear of the big “C”. I have undergone two surgeries, four chemotherapies, 33 radiotherapies and I’ll be receiving hormone treatment up until November 2017.

During the entire time these treatments were happening I was pro-active in doing everything I could utilising both traditional and alternative medicines to help my body through the initial recovery and rehabilitation stages of my journey. Once I’d finished the initial treatment with my breast cancer physiotherapist, she recommended I take up swimming in a heated pool to further help manage my breast lymphodema. At this point, the last time I considered myself a swimmer I was still in high school.

Thankfully we have an Olympic-sized heated indoor pool at RAAF Base Amberley where I work and train. Considering I hadn’t swum in what felt like a lifetime I needed to get myself something to swim in and a pair of goggles to protect my eyes. Speedo was my first choice. I knew their brand and trusted their products. I did all my shopping online and whilst searching on their website came across the Get Speedo Fit swim program. I thought, perfect! This was exactly what I’m looking for.

Australian Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Geoff Huegill developed the Starter, Improver and Performer swim programs for a 25m or 50m pool. Best part? It was free. How awesome is that?! The program suited my needs perfectly and was flexible, which allowed me to adapt and adjust the program to suit my body’s needs and fatigue levels. I laminated all three swim programs so I could have them poolside with me for guidance.

Once I read through their programs I saw that they also used training aids. Everything I needed to get started was available online at the Speedo website so I outfitted myself with a mesh bag, hand paddles, training fins, poolbuoy and kickboard.

When I started I knew how to swim, but given the amount of time I’d spent out of the pool I didn’t have a great deal of confidence in my technique. Thankfully Speedo came to the rescue. I found everything I needed to watch from swimming, to breathing, and using training aids on the Speedo website to help me visualise and prepare for my Get Speedo Fit journey.

I was now ready. The next step? Get into the pool.


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