A woman who lost 20 stone when she took up sea swimming has celebrated her 50th birthday after thinking she would not "make it to 48".
Kathleen Wotton, from County Durham, has a condition called Lipodema which causes abnormal fat build-up.
Ms Wotton said: "My grandchildren are one of the reasons I wanted to live, and my children.
"My children were constantly saying ‘mam you’ve got to do something’ but I just didn’t have anything there to do it, to push me.
“I cried, I slept, I cried, I slept, I could barely stand up. I struggled getting to the toilet in time. It was just really bad.
“In the last couple of years, I’ve lost 10 dress sizes. I can stand with my sticks longer than three seconds, I can get up to bed upstairs, I’ve travelled, I swim as much as I can.
“When I get in I feel alive, the dark thoughts drift away. I'm pain free, I'm able bodied so I feel like a child again almost, and it just makes me smile.
“The fact that I’m alive and I’m going to hit my 50th is just the best.”
Video report by Katie Cole.
Ms Wotton now regularly meets with Seaham Sea Swimmers group and some of the people she has met through taking up the sport joined her for a dip to celebrate her birthday on Sunday 12 February.
Her sister Christine said she has seen a massive change in her since getting into the water for the first time.
She said: "She really struggled walking down the beach because she was a lot bigger then and she struggled with her health. When she got in the water it was just crazy because she was just like a little kid.
"I've noticed a massive difference, obviously her health and her weight, the very obvious ones - but also her mental attitude and her zest for life, that's all come back.
"She wasn't really doing much and having much of a life but this has brought it back."
Ms Wotton is also now an ambassador for Blue Tonic, a charity that encourages people to spend time around "blue spaces" or areas near water to improve their physical and mental health.
She is inspiring others to take up the hobby that changed her life and writes a blog.
She said: "Just keep on going. The more people I can help the happier I feel.
"I’m reaching out to other people and maybe they can find that little bit of hope or strength from me."
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