For more information and to enter John West Great East Swim, click here

Just a year ago, Vicky Malmsjo was diagnosed with the spine of an 80-year-old and suffered with severe pain.

But after taking up open water swimming, the 36-year-old has turned her life around, no longer endures long spells of pain, and will mark her astonishing recovery by taking on the John West Great East Swim on Alton Water this month.

Vicky, from Rivenhall, in Essex, was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, a premature aging of the spine, after she complained of pain in both legs.

She said: “It was difficult to walk or move around un-aided and the pain was unbearable. I could not dress myself and found it difficult to sit down. I spent all day standing up as this was the position that caused the least discomfort.”

Following her diagnosis, Vicky took to the pool, and started by walking up and down the length of her local pool to begin with.

She explained: “I walked up and down for maybe 4 or 6 lengths of the pool and felt like I had climbed Everest. I remember looking over to the swimmers in the fast lane and thinking to myself I’m going to be in there soon.”

In time, walking slowly became faster, and she began swimming, which has eased her pain and improved her core muscles.

Vicky said: “I have found that through swimming front crawl I have reduced my symptoms so that I now don’t have to take any medication at all. When I saw the spinal surgeon in September last year he was flabbergasted that the person he was looking at was the same person on the MRI scans he had on his computer. “

“I still have no reflexes in my knees or ankles and there are days when I get mild sciatic pains but if I did not swim I do not even want to think about where I might be now.” 

Vicky is now a passionate swimmer, having started in the pool, following up with open water swimming and has just qualified as an open water swimming coach.  Swimming has transformed her life and she wants to inspire other people to go on the journey that she’s been on.

She will be taking on the mile distance on Alton Water, and is looking forward to getting involved among 2,000 swimmers at the Suffolk venue.

She said: “Swimming has completely changed my life. During a swim I feel unstoppable and afterwards I feel both relaxed and energised. Nothing makes me happier than swimming.”

“The John West Great East Swim is iconic. I swim socially with a lovely group of people in the river Stour in Suffolk and many of them are taking part in this event too. I wanted to take part in it because it is so iconic and it’s the only opportunity that you get to swim in Alton water - so that’s very special too.

“I will feel an enormous sense of pride and achievement that I did it.”

The John West Great East Swim takes place on Saturday 22 June, with distances suitable for swimmers of all abilities from the entry level Swim 250 for anyone aged eight and up to the gruelling 10K open water marathon distance.

For more information and to enter John West Great East Swim, click here