FOR many hardy souls, the thrill of participating in a Christmas Day swim is as much a part of Christmas Day as eating excessive amounts of festive food.
One of the most established Christmas Day swims is the Michael Power Memorial Swim which takes place in Kilmurrin on the beautiful Copper Coast.
The origins and development of the Michael Power Memorial Swim are particularly poignant.
In 1982, local man Michael Power and a small number of friends decided to go swimming on Christmas Day.
The following year, the swimming enthusiasts swam more frequently from summertime, throughout autumn and up to Christmas Day.
More people joined their endeavours and so the first official Christmas Day Swim at Kilmurrin took place in 1983.
The 13 swimmers who took part on the day were Michael Power, Lennie Bell, Tom Whelan, Mary Mooney, John Walsh, Ger Mooney, Darren Power, Buddy Mooney, Tom Power, Adrian Kirwan, Johnny Murray, Brendan Power and Tony Murphy.
Two weeks before Christmas Day, members of the group met a lady involved with the Waterford Asthma Society who suggested they raise some money as part of their Christmas swim.
And so, they set about making sponsorship cards.
The first swim, which consisted of just 13 swimmers, raised the impressive sum of £600.
In 1984, the event was geared up to be bigger and better and much effort had gone into its organisation.
However, tragedy struck on December 17th when Michael Power died suddenly aged 40.
Everything was organised for that year’s swim, and so the group decided to continue with the swim as a tribute to Michael.
The event has grown to become a beautiful remembrance of Michael’s life and an event which has raised hundreds of thousands for various charities and good causes throughout the Waterford area.
Beneficiaries are not confined exclusively to charities as money has been raised for various other good causes such as the church and school in Kill, Knockmahon and Seafield schools, Dunabbey Hospital, Dungarvan, and the Order of Malta.
This year’s chosen beneficiary is ‘Nadine’s Cancer Battle’.
Nadine Ouajjit Flynn is two and a half years old and is the daughter of Sarah Flynn of Kill, and Karim Ouajjit of Parma, Italy.
In April 2015, at 11 months of age, a large tumour was found to be growing on Nadine’s spine and she was diagnosed with Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer of the nervous system.
It was discovered when Nadine seemed to have suddenly lost the power in legs and was unable to support herself when sitting.
After initially being diagnosed with a virus by a GP, she showed no signs of improvement and so her concerned parents took her to Temple Street where an MRI showed a large tumour pressing on her spine.
The tumour had started growing in the middle of her chest, grown forward and covered all of her right lung, half of her left lung and her trachea before growing backwards and wrapping itself around her spine and was effectively starting to paralyse her.
In an extra complication, tests showed Nadine’s cancer cells had a gene “switched on”.
This gene is called the MYC-N gene, and by being switched on it caused the cancer to grow faster and be more resistant to standard treatments.
This puts her at a much higher chance of a relapse.
On April 25th 2015, Nadine underwent an emergency surgery to decompress her spine and to try to recover the power in her legs and give her a chance to walk.
The surgery was extremely high risk as part of the tumour was covering her trachea and there was a significant risk that this could fall forward and stop her breathing.
Thankfully she came through the surgery with no complications but more tests showed the cancer had spread to the bones in her skull and face, her shoulders and ribs, her pelvis, her legs and her bone marrow.
Nadine spent three days intubated and sedated in the ICU of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin.
She started chemotherapy on April 27th in the ICU and since then has been undergoing a very aggressive treatment protocol under the Oncology Team and staff on St Johns Ward in OLCH Crumlin.
Nadine then spent 32 days in protective isolation in Crumlin following a successful stem cell transplant.
The next step was targeted radiation therapy which she started in January 2016 followed by a new form of antibody treatment, immunotherapy.
Nadine has been very lucky and responded very well to her treatment protocol from Crumlin and her last MIBG scans (full body scan which highlights any neuroblastoma cells) have been clear.
‘Nadine’s Cancer Battle’ was established initially as a Facebook page by Nadine’s mother Sarah to keep people up to date with Nadine’s journey.
Due to her high potential relapse rate the decision was then made to fundraise in order to enrol Nadine on a preventative treatment trial in the US and a legal Trust was set up to manage any money raised.
It had been hoped that Nadine would be on the DFMO trial at this stage but following lengthy consultation and discussions with her Oncology team in St Johns Ward, the decision was recently made by Nadine’s parents not to go ahead with this particular trial.
Her doctors have advised them that they feel the DFMO trial would not be of enough benefit to Nadine to go ahead with it and risk potential side effects.
However ‘Nadine’s Cancer Battle’ is still committed to finding the right and most appropriate preventative treatment for Nadine as neuroblastoma is a very aggressive form of cancer and even though Nadine is currently in remission she still remains very much at risk of it returning.
Nadine’s parents have been working hard with other neuroblastoma parents researching options with oncologists both in Crumlin and abroad and are currently exploring the option of collaborating with a cancer charity and other parents to bring a new preventative vaccine drug to trial stage.
This trial would then be available to all children in remission from neuroblastoma.
All involved with ‘Nadine’s Cancer Battle’ are hopeful that this can happen and that this treatment will give Nadine and other neuroblastoma children extra protection against a relapse.
Undoubtedly, ‘Nadine’s Cancer Battle’ is a hugely deserving cause and is sure to be well supported by all those participating in this year’s Michael Power Memorial Swim.
For more information on Nadine’s story, check out ‘Nadine’s Cancer Battle’ Facebook page. For more information on the Michael Power Memorial Swim contact Chair Tom Power on 086 3327175 or Secretary Joanne Lenihan on 292907.