A dad-of-three from Blackheath is set to take on a gruelling swimming challenge to raise money for charities helping the families of children with cancer as his niece battles the disease.

Maxime Senecaut’s "superhero" niece Manissé was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2019, just two weeks after her second birthday.

News Shopper: Maxime and one of his three childrenMaxime and one of his three children

The diagnosis turned the worlds of Maxime’s in-laws upside down – both quitting their jobs to focus on helping their sick baby.

While Manissé, now aged five, underwent treatment in hospital, dad Greg who was originally the manager of a safety for swimming association in Marseilles “found the strength” to use his job to help other struggling families.

He organised a 10km charity swim to raise money for charities Sourire a la Vie and A.L.C.HE. who provide daily support to families and their children affected by Leukaemia.

Greg’s brother-in-law Maxime took part in the Mediterranean Sea challenge in 2019 and raised €3,000 out of a grand €50,000 total from everyone who took part.

Maxime, 40, told the News Shopper: “There’s a famous 20km run in Marseilles with around 10,000 people running each year but no one ever swims it.

“So, when Greg organised their first 10km swimming challenge, I took part without any preparation.

“If Greg and Cora found the strength to organise that when Manissé was ill, I can find the strength to swim.

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“When you’re two years old you aren’t expecting to be diagnosed with cancer and you have to face it totally unprepared so I thought I’d try without any preparation.

“I don’t like swimming and I don’t like the depth and darkness of water so it was a challenge and I succeeded.”

The next challenge, an 18km Mediterranean swim, was supposed to go ahead in 2020 but due to coronavirus restrictions it had to be postponed to this year.

Manissé was cleared of cancer at the end of 2020, but had a relapse earlier this year and went through CAR-T treatment which was successful.

She will now have a bone marrow transplant in late September.

Maxime said: “This is not an easy process and is a heavy treatment for a five year old, but that’s why I’m doing a very long swim for just an average father.

“There’s only around 30 of us taking part in the longer one, and around 150 people are doing the 10km challenge again.”

Maxime explained that lockdown made life for Manissé even more difficult, with her immune system so weak she was locked down in hospital and sometimes didn’t go outside for two months.

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Maxime, his wife and three young children haven’t been able to see Manissé, Greg and Cora in more than a year due to travel restrictions, and are looking forward to being reunited for the challenge on September 25.

Maxime, a financial advisor, added: “This year I’m hoping to raise more than €4,000 and then they can handover a cheque to the charities which help parents and children with anything from equipment to live music and shows.

"Manissé is only five years old, and she already had to go through the hardest times that life can put you through.

"She will never be the same person and she will come out stronger; she is our superhero, an example of resilience and courage, a small soldier fighting cancer with her shield of courage and hope.

"Her parents too are superheroes and I want to do what I can to help."

Donations can be made here.

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