Swimming For My Kid - and Maybe Yours Too

by Pool Builders on 07-10-2008 in Articles

"If your actions inspire others to dream more and do more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams

This weekend found five of the six in our family swimming or kayaking in the chilly waters of Long Island Sound for one of our own: Nick.

You might know that our son, Nick, was successfully treated for leukemia and, off chemo for a year now, is doing fabulously well. If you have been reading my newsletters during these past four years, you've followed the "Nick Notes" as well as our own family's particular journey. And you know that he is a rising senior at Wake Forest University, and is in school there this summer taking a full course load to ensure graduation "on time" with his classmates.

So when I was asked last year to swim in the Inaugural Swim Across America in Greenwich for the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, I replied with an eager "absolutely!" having never done anything like this before in my life, blindly believing that my morning hour-long laps in my gym's heated pool would prepare me fully for the event. But I had no idea. A mile-and-a-half. In open water. At 58 degrees.

That was an interesting swim to say the least. The first twenty-five minutes found me unable to put my face in the water, it was just that cold. I cried. Hyperventilated. Swallowed a lot of salt water. Almost threw up. Had early stages of hypothermia. Felt dizzy upon finishing. Couldn't feel the knuckle in my pinky finger for nine full months afterwards. But I swam for Nick. I kept reminding myself with each stroke in those chilly waters that my discomfort was but a fraction of what he endured for thirty-two long months of treatments.

And so it was with anxiety and, frankly, fear and trepidation, that I enrolled once again for this year's Swim. I can't say that I looked forward to it, because I didn't. Can't honestly say that I wanted to do it. Because I knew how difficult it was for me and I really sort of dreaded it. But I knew that I had to do it and so I signed up with a lump in my throat and did everything I could to prepare myself physically and mentally for it. And my husband signed up for it, too, as did our sons, Ben (who at eighteen is leaving for the US Naval Academy tomorrow for Induction Day) and Victor (who at thirteen was one of the youngest swimmers entered). Cristina (at sixteen) kayaked and helped to keep us swimmers lined up between the buoyees as well as anyone in distress. We represented "Team Nick" and, hesitant as we were about the swim ahead, we did it cheerfully for not only our son and brother, but for the thousands of people who are courageously fighting various forms of cancer and its treatment each and every day.

And what a glorious swim it turned out to be! Blue skies and slightly warmer temperatures were the morning's greatest gifts. And the water looked like a piece of glass! It was calm. A tad bit warmer. Smarter this year than last, I wore a full wet suit (instead of the flimsy shortie that I wore last year); I put in my contacts so I could actually see the finish line as we got closer to it (a mentally exhilarating thing to be sure!); and I splashed around in the water for a few minutes before the swim to let me body get a little used to it before diving in.

I found myself enjoying it. Truly enjoying every minute of it! I enjoyed swimming with the other swimmers, most of whom swam in honor or in memory of a loved one. I enjoyed the sun hitting my face. The vast expanse of the open water and the freedom that came with that. My strokes. I was downright in love with the Swim. I felt my body gliding through the water in thanksgiving for the gift of life. The gift of Nick. The gift of excellent health that allowed me to do such a thing.

When I hit the finish line, I was practically giddy. Big smile. Sense of accomplishment. Good time, too, coming in a full five minutes ahead of last year. Landed squarely on my feet, without fatigue or deep-seated chills. Just proud to be a part of something so large.

I would love for you to check out the Swim Across America web site. And our family's personalized page, too. Chances are, someone you love deeply has been affected by cancer. And I would love to swim in that person's honor or memory next year. When I swim once again for Nick.

Perhaps you too, can take part in something large. Relay for Life or a Triathalon perhaps. Something much larger than yourself. In honor of someone you love, as well as the thousands whom you will never even meet. The sacrifice will prove exhilarating. Meaningful. Very real.

Please let me know how I can make it more real for you. It would be my honor.

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