Devoted husband Rob Dolton is facing his demons and vowing to complete a 1500m sponsored swim to highlight a debilitating condition his wife has battled for more than 20 years.
The 51-year-old, who admits he is no water baby and who only weeks ago struggled to manage five lengths, will be attempting 125 to raise awareness of M.E.
His wife, Michelle, 43, was diagnosed with the condition, which has no known cure, in 2002 a decade after first showing symptoms. She is unable to work due to this condition and spends many hours bed bound.
Rob has already raised more than £500 in sponsorship through his JustGiving page, which will be donated to the ME Association.
He will be completing his swim on Friday, June 26 at the Holiday Inn pool in Sutton, Surrey, which is close to where he works in the finance industry at The Eurofinance Partnership.
“It’s tough, the training has been very hard,” says Rob. “I started seven weeks ago, managing five or six lengths, with a break between each one. Now I’m up to 90.
“I’m 17 stone and very conscious of my weight, and it affects my confidence. I find walking out of the changing room hard, because I don’t like people seeing me.”
Rob, who has a daily five hour commute to Sutton from his home in West Sussex decided to take the plunge one day after getting a text from Michelle while he was on the train.
“She said: ‘I’m fed up of being tired, I’m fed up of not leaving the house, I’m fed up of everything.’ It hit me I had a choice about my weight, Michelle has no choice about her illness.”
He decided on a swimathon because Michelle was a pool lifeguard in her teens and loved swimming.
“When I’m swimming, what keeps me going is Michelle, and getting the message out about ME. I’m hoping that she’ll be well enough to come and watch me. If she’s having a good day, I’ve asked her to swim the last couple of lengths with me.”
“It breaks my heart to see how she daily struggles with this illness. It can take her hours to get out of bed and get dressed in the morning. To see someone who was so vibrant, such a joyful person, confined in the house, it’s so hard.
“Sometimes she will text me and say: ‘I’ve done 20 minutes gardening!’ but that’s on a good day. We live with it, we’ve acclimatised. But it’s taken years of our lives.”
Michelle added: “When Rob told me he was planning a swimathon, I was shocked. He commutes for five hours a day and has little spare time to do anything, let alone train for something like this.
“What makes it more special for me is that he is very conscious of his weight, but comes back from swimming every time telling me how many lengths he’s achieved. I’m very proud of him.
“Having ME has totally changed how I live my life and I still find it difficult to accept after all these years. People understand so little about the illness, and I feel very alone at times.”
To sponsor Rob or find out more, please visit www.justgiving.com/Rob-Dolton
Rob's interview with SpiritFM, Chichester, can be found HERE.