Bluetits Body Stories: Nic

July 23, 2021

Bluetits Body Stories: Nic

We've received such an incredible response to our D&B x The Bluetits Body Stories  so far. When we first spoke with these 10 wonderful women we knew their stories would resonate with so many of you but we've still been blown away by your response: thank you. And a huge thanks again to the amazing women who have shared their honest accounts with us.

If you're new to this series then welcome! In D&B x The Bluetits Body Stories we speak with 10 different women who swim outside year-round. They have generously shared with us their reflections on how their lives and experiences have shaped their relationships with their bodies. These conversations inevitably tackle big, knotty and hard-hitting subjects that strike at the core of who we are.

This week we introduce lovely Nic. Grab a cup of tea and dive in. 

Tell us a bit about you

I’m Nic, I’m 59 and I moved to Wareham in June last year as part of a separation from my husband. It has involved moving away from my three adult children, family and friends which has been a great wrench. I’ve always been a hands-on mum so it has been incredibly hard. When I first arrived we couldn’t socialise and in lockdown I felt so isolated.

I wasn’t coping very well and so, as restrictions eased, I decided to swim in the sea. (I love swimming as I’m a swimming teacher). The water was cold but I felt fantastic. Then one night I was watching Rick Stein in Cornwall and I spied the Bluetits. They were jumping around in the waves: laughing, confident. It really struck me that over the years I had been so anxious with myself and with my body. I have osteoporosis and have lost 3 inches in height and have quite often been sick with anxiety. Watching them I thought ‘I can do that’. So I contacted the Bluetits, asked if I could set up a group and started the Studland Bay Bluetits.

We go to beach, get into the water, we laugh, we joke. On Sundays when we get out we have hot croissants. The rest of the week we have cake! The feeling of wellbeing, of being part of a community that laughs – there is nothing like it. We talk and we share our problems but everything stays in the group, it stays in the water. Slowly the group is growing with some wonderful people. Together we are learning to love who and what we are.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Osteoporosis - Loss - Breast Cancer - Sustainable Swimwear - Nic

What is the earliest memory you have of your body image?

My father left us when I was four. My mum brought my sister and I up with her mum and our great gran. I was very body conscious even at that age. I had a mole on my back and so I never showed my back. That story, that behaviour, has continued for me. I struggled at school, I was anxious – and that too has carried on throughout my life. My mum remarried when I was eight and gave us a lovely stepfather, two stepsisters, and a stepbrother. I became a part of a family unit and felt so lucky. But it never went away that our father had left us.

I realised I was dyslexic at the age of 16. Until then I had gone through school thinking that I was an idiot. I really struggled with that. But as a result I learned from a young age to empathise and to be incredibly aware of what was going on around me. I may not have been academically very bright but there were lots of other things in the world to be good at. I have always been able to read situations really well.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Osteoporosis - Loss - Breast Cancer - Sustainable Swimwear - Nic

My sister and I were very, very close and always there for each other.

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis after my last child, Alice, was born. I had a DVT two weeks after she was born and was rushed into hospital and given a drug which fractured six of my vertebrae. From that point on I was doubled over with curvature of the spine. I was 37. I struggled to walk any distance due to the DVT and my back. Just after that my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

We got well together. We walked the Moonwalk in London. Our mantra was about making a negative into a positive and this is exactly what we did. She decided she wanted to live with the cancer, not battle it. And I decided the same. Life was about living. Together we did lots of fundraising for charities, raising money for the Royal United Hospital in Bath and the Forever Friends appeal.
Ness did the Bath half marathon. By then she had had a bilateral mastectomy. She used to joke that her boobs used to hit her in the face but after the mastectomy she could finally run! Unfortunately after that the cancer went to her lungs. So I had to take it on. I ran the London Marathon in 2007. And together we started a walk around the catchment area of the IUA. Other women joined us, realising what they could do. Then unfortunately the cancer went to Ness’s brain and she couldn’t do anything anymore.

I carried the walk on in 2007, still raising money for CT scanners and more – anything they needed at the hospital. She was being followed by a charity called Winston’s Wish who were featuring her in a programme on Channel 4 called Mummy Diaries. She died on the 15th November 2007 on the day the programme aired.

Before she died Ness gave me a list of things she’d like me to do. One was to keep an eye on her husband and children and another was to carry on raising money for the most amazing cancer centre which is currently being built. Our walk, The Walk of Life, continues every year. It’s a marathon distance walk along the Avon Canal from Bishops Cannings to Bath. Hundreds of people join us every year, Mike Eavis is our Ambassador and we have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The charity Forever Friends have been like a family to me. They’ve gathered up my own family and given us something positive to make out of the negative. And the Bluetits have done that to me too. I needed healing, having moved away after the breakdown of my marriage. And in them I have found another family.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Osteoporosis - Loss - Breast Cancer - Sustainable Swimwear - Nic

What makes swimming with others special?

We welcome absolutely anybody into our group and there is a sense of one-ness, of shared experience. Everybody has something in life they are anxious about. Normally when you start talking about your own anxiety someone else has had that problem too. And so we talk, we interact and as the waves are coming in we jump over them and as we’re getting wet, going under the water, getting into the cold water, we are sharing, opening up. The cold water brings out the absolute best and worst in you! You feel at peace, calm and whole. Yes, you feel whole.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Osteoporosis - Loss - Breast Cancer - Sustainable Swimwear - Nic

What do you love about your body today?

My body is my memories and my life. It’s all encompassed in one five foot two frame. It’s the tapestry of my life and it will carry on being that way because I have so much more to achieve. Even at 59 I still have so many years to live and I am living them for my sister, for the years that she can’t live. 

Every birthday that comes around we say “Oh I’m another year older” but I think we have the wrong perspective on aging. Birthdays are another year of living and how lucky we are to have them. What a privilege it is to grow old. I want to grow old and grey gracefully, like they say in the films. And yes, I shall wear purple. 

It’s rare for me to show my back as I did in the photoshoot but I loved the X-Back Swimsuit – it felt like it was distracting (in a good way) from the curvature of my spine. Doing what I did, exposing my back and having my photo taken – it was nerve-wracking but it was empowering. I have learned to love what I’ve got.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Osteoporosis - Loss - Breast Cancer - Sustainable Swimwear - Nic

What makes you feel amazing in your body?

Swimming definitely. The feeling of water on your body. It’s back to basics. As you go into the water you breathe out to acclimatise and as you do so you’re letting go of all that air, all the breath from the body, taking in the coldness of the water and it just encompasses you.

Swimming outside is about life and nature coming together. We all see everything so much more clearly since the pandemic. The seasons have been more crisp and alive. Everything has been slower and we’ve had a chance to take it in.

I asked my mum, if you had to describe me in one word, what would you say? She said I am resilient. And the other thing I’ve always done is to empathise with everybody. I think that’s the thing we’ve learned most through the pandemic, that no matter what colour, creed, shape or size, we need to empathise more. Losing people taught me that.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Osteoporosis - Loss - Breast Cancer - Sustainable Swimwear - Nic

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell her to just live her life, no matter what hits you. Never let it knock you down. Because life is so precious. Sometimes we need to dig deep to find out what is precious to us. I don’t think I realised how precious my life was.

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Nic wears the X-Back in Cobalt in a size 10 Monroe

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Want to read more in our D&B x The Bluetits Body Stories series? Have a read of our conversations so far with SianAliSophie and Lisa. We'll be releasing a new Bluetits Body Story every Friday for the next 5 weeks. Sign up to our mailing list to be alerted when these beautiful accounts go live.

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Want to swim with Nic? Visit The Studland Bay Bluetits

Find out more about some of the wonderful charities and organisations Nic has mentioned, here:

The Royal Osteoporosis Society
The Forever Friends Appeal
The Moonwalk

And you can join Nic on the walk she established with her sister here: The Walk of Life

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Osteoporosis - Loss - Breast Cancer - Sustainable Swimwear - Nic



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