East Devon sea swimming ‘seal’ raises funds for the cancer charity who supported her through her ‘journey from hell’

Sea swimming ‘seal’ Sally from East Devon has presented more than £1,000 to the charity that helped her through gruelling cancer treatment.

Sally Shannon, from Talaton, East Devon, raised funds by taking a festive dip on December 25 as thanks for the ‘wonderful support’ she received from FORCE cancer charity during her ‘journey from hell’.

Sally, who is a member of the Exmouth Women Seal Swimmers, last month celebrated how far she had come since her diagnosis in March 2021 – where breast cancer chemotherapy left her feeling ‘bloated, breathless and without hair’.

She said: “I received wonderful support from Force. They support the whole family because it’s not just you that’s on the journey from hell. It affects everyone around you.

“Their centre wasn’t fully open due to Covid but the support was still there. It’s amazing what they do. They’re always there if you need them.”

East Devon

Sally raised funds for FORCE cancer charity.
Photo: with permission.

Sally, who was supported on festive dip day by 20 friends and her daughter, who had driven down to East Devon from Berkshire, added: “I was truly overwhelmed how much money was raised and it show how much Force means to people in the area.”

“It was a lovely thing to do on Christmas morning and very invigorating.”

Sally, a retired pub manager, said: “Later in the day I remembered that the December before I could hardly breathe, I felt bloated and had no hair, which really made me realise how far I had come.”

East Devon

Sally Shannon (left) and Jo Spencer warming up after their swim.
Photo: with permission.

Naomi Cole, FORCE community fundraiser, said: “Huge congratulations and thanks to the amazing Sally for beginning her Christmas Day with a dip in the sea, raising a brrrrrr-illiant amount in the process.”

FORCE offers free support to anyone affected by cancer who lives locally. The charity has a main centre in Exeter and outreach hub in Ottery St Mary, East Devon.

Thanks to FORCE, Sally had access to wig fitting, massage, counselling and a gym referral from the charity’s specialist physio team.

She joined the Look Good Feel Better pampering session that teaches men, women and teenagers how to manage some of the visible side-effects of their cancer treatment in a practical and positive way.

Sally said: “That was the first time I had the chance to talk to people going through the same thing as me, which was really good. Going through chemo we were all kept so far apart.”

And she was also supported by the Talaton community where she and partner, Rob, volunteer at the village shop.

It was during a knit-and-natter session in the village when she her friend, Jo Spencer, also a Talaton resident, decided they would start swimming together.

“I didn’t realise it would be in the sea,” said Sally. “I love it. You get a real buzz from it – an adrenalin rush. It’s exciting, despite the cold.”

The pair joined the Exmouth Women Seal Swimmers, which formed during lockdown when pools were closed. The group swims at Exmouth on Sunday mornings.

Sally swam just once with the group before hitting on the idea of the Christmas Day dip to raise money for Force.

A Force spokeswoman said: “A hot chocolate with a shot of brandy helped Sally warm up after her Christmas Day swim along with the knowledge that she had raised a phenomenal £1,045 for FORCE, Gift Aid taking the total to £1,200.”

East Devon

Sally and friends in the water at Exmouth.
Photo: with permission.


Sally Shannon (right) and FORCE fundraising operations officer Chloe Richardson.
Photo: with permission.


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