My role


Colin Osborne: 10,000 mm under the sea

In the ten years since he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Colin Osborne has become one of men's health most imaginative and energetic campaigners. Last month, the founder and president of the Orchid Cancer Appeal and six colleagues became the first team to cross the English channel the hard way — underwater. It was pretty gloomy but Colin did see three jellyfish!


Orchid cross-channel dive teamMHF: there's only one question, Colin. Why?

CO: This is the tenth anniversary of my starting the charity and also my tenth year in remission so I wanted to do something to mark it. My first ever fundraising event was scuba-diving into my golf club's pond to fish out golf balls so I wanted to do something else that involved diving.

Was it tough to persuade others to join in?

Not really. The channel swim may be a bit more challenging than the lake at Ilford Golf Club but the reasons behind it are the same - to raise funds for The Orchid Cancer Appeal and to promote awareness of male cancers. I got a couple of friends involved and we also got a couple of navy divers who were very fit and good divers. We've logged over 10,000 dives between us. It's not deep — we were swimming at 5m below the surface — but you are on your own without a dive buddy so you need to know what to do if something goes wrong.

Orchid dive logo How did you do it?

We went from Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover to Cap Gris Nez, France. It's 21 miles across as the crow flies. But when swam, due to tidal movements it could actually be over 30 miles.

We swam for half an hour each at a time. I started it and swam about a mile but it varied depending on the currents. About three-quarters of the way across we had some very favourable currents and were doing about 3 miles in half an hour.

The crossing has been done underwater using surface-supplied air but we were the first to do it using scuba equipment. It's a world record.

How are you going to top that for your 20th anniversary?

We've got something planned which we thought of on the way back from France but if I told you I'd have to kill you.

How has your life changed in the ten years since you got cancer?

It's changed my outlook hugely. I do far more than I used to. I'm a diving instructor. I've jumped from a plane. We tend to take things for granted and only realise their true value when we're about to lose them. It was like that with me and my life. Now there aren't enough hours in the day.

You could say it's one of the best thing that ever happened to me. It certainly changed me and my life for the better.

For a lot of blokes it's the fear of a diagnosis like cancer that keeps them from going to the doctors.

Yes, but I'm proof that even cancer need not be as bad as they fear. Cancer's not a death sentence but the main thing is to catch it as early as possible. If you're worried, see your doctor.

How else is the Orchid Cancer Appeal marking its tenth anniversary?

We've an anniversary dinner at the Savoy later this month but most importantly we're transferring our Know Your Balls video to DVD. It'll include updates, sub-titles, foreign languages, more interactive and teaching materials and also some really funny out-takes.

Funding permitting it should be going out to every school in the country in October.

Page created on September 1st, 2006

Page updated on December 1st, 2009