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Channel Swimmer Beth French On Jellyfish, Living With ME And Her Autistic Son
Saturday 27 July 2019
Channel swimmer Beth French on jellyfish, living with ME and her autistic son
Beth French calls herself the "proverbial water baby".
Water was her refuge as a child, the only way of making the pain of her ME disappear. A bucket, a stream, a river or the sea, it didn't matter - so long as there was water.
As a teenager, French felt her body had failed her after being diagnosed with the condition, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Yet in the 20-plus years since, it's proven anything but a let down. It's fitting that being in water is the very reason for that.
Swimming the English Channel is a challenge most would flinch at. French, now 41, did it in 2012. Two years later she became the first person to swim the 26 miles from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly.
That, she says, was like "being a human pinball in a jellyfish machine".
"I must have had more than 40 stings through that night. I'd sweep my hand through the water in a stroke and come up with one in my hand, and then as my other hand went in, one would wrap round my wrist," she recalls.
Yet it was the start of a journey that has taken her to all corners of the globe - and the very limits of human endurance.
This is her story.
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