A COUNTY woman who has twice battled cancer and expects the disease to return has told how she took part in a "foolish" swimming challenge - and will return to the north of Scotland for more next month.

Christine Howson, 58, of Ormiston, and friend Saartje Drijver, 47, of North Berwick, have completed 60 kilometres of an 85km charity swim and cycle through the waters between Loch Laxford on the west coast of the Highlands and Bonar Bridge in the east.

Christine admitted that she wanted to do the challenge now as she cannot plan too far ahead.

Though she is in remission, her disease has been classed as terminal - with medics believing her ovarian cancer will return in the future.

But there is no indication as to when that could be, and she could stay in remission for several years.

The duo completed the first leg of their swim - cycling between waterways - between August 8 and 11 before returning due to work and family commitments.

They will go back north to complete the remaining 25km between September 13 and 16.

Christine, of Main Street, told the Courier: "I, for a long time, thought it would not be possible.

"It seemed a good time, and I didn't know how long I would be fit for it - they call it terminal and they're expecting it back at any moment - so it was important to do it this year because I can't plan that far ahead.

"I have a very short life expectancy so I live life to the full." Christine first suffered from ovarian cancer in 2006, but went into remission after treatment.

However, the disease returned in 2011 and is in remission for a second time. Christine continues to be on medication.

The marine biologist finally felt strong enough in the spring to start training for the challenge she had first dreamt up two years ago, saying: "It's given me a target and a focus." The two women believe they are the first to do a coast-to-coast swim via this route.

The pair are experienced swimmers; Christine is a coach at Tranent Amateur Swimming Club while Saartje coaches at North Berwick Swimming Club.

"Maybe others could do it quicker, but we were the first," said Christine. "It's a personal challenge." She described the swim as "a real achievement - brave, foolish really, but it was fun".

The first leg, between Loch Laxford and Loch Shin, lasted four days. During this they swam one or two-hour stints with two-hour breaks in between, a total of six hours' swimming a day.

The swim covered nearly 48km, with 13 km cycled.

The final section will see them go through dams at Lairg to the River Shin and on to the Kyle of Sutherland.

A motorboat followed the pair during the journey for safety and they were supported by a seven-strong team of friends and family, including Christine's son Tim Dixon, husband Ian Dixon, and Saartje's partner Pete Younger.

In aid of Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres and WaterAid, the swim has raised more than �3,000.

To sponsor the duo, visit virginmoneygiving.com/team/ShinSwim