you join SAA, your family grows and you see the bigger picture. We all
become a part of SAA for our own reasons but, once you do, you join the
family…There is strength in that." ~ Craig Beardsley
"If it hadn't been for
competing at the USMS National Championships in 2001 my diagnosis might have
been too late; swimming quite possibly saved my life."
'Get down to
the ER and have yourself checked out'.
Those were the words that I got from a paramedic on deck at the 2001 US
Masters Swimming long course championships in Federal Way near Seattle. I was
competing at the meet but was feeling rotten, couldn't eat properly and my
times were all way off. So I had talked
to one of the on-deck paramedics. who promptly sent me off to the local ER. The
doctor at the ER did a physical exam and then said 'Something is wrong; get
home immediately and get checked out.'
Four weeks later I was in surgery
having a rectal resection to remove a malignant tumor. Once I had recovered
from the surgery sufficiently I had to endure one of life's great experiences -
six months of chemotherapy. I would not
wish it on my worst enemy. Six months after the surgery my oncologist
recommended that I get a PET scan. Radioactive sugar is injected into you. The
cancer cells take up most of it and can be imaged. I was clean! Big sigh of relief! Now for
trying to get back to life, as I had basically lost nearly 8 months.
When my wife and I received the news
that I had rectal cancer we thought I did not have long to live. My wife had an
uncle who died from colon cancer and I had a colleague who had died within six
months of diagnosis of colon cancer. We got all our paperwork in order
preparing for the worst. In retrospect, not an entirely bad thing.
I started swimming again even when I
was still on the chemo. Not my usual
3000 yards a day, but more like 1200 yards.
But, it was great therapy as it got me out of the house, and for over an
hour a day I wasn't sitting in my chair thinking about how rotten I felt. As the effects of the chemo wore off I was
gradually able to build my yardage back up again, and within a year of the
surgery I was back competing. Not at the level I had been at previously, but
still doing it. Since then I have
essentially been able to recover to almost where I was before my round with
cancer. At age 72, I now swim about 2600
yards a day, five days a week, and compete in masters swimming events all over
the world. In October 2009 I competed in the World Masters Games in Sydney,
Australia; in the Olympic pool! I placed third in the 100 meter backstroke and
I won the 200 meter backstroke for the 70-74 age group (see photos). Not bad for a cancer survivor, I felt. I am
now looking forward to the World Masters Swimming Championships in Riccione,
Italy, in 2012. And many more after that.
I have several suggestions based on
my experience. Do not put off getting
checked out; the earlier the diagnosis the better the chance of survival. I had
had a rectal bleeding episode about four months before the diagnosis, which the
doctor incorrectly attributed to hemorrhoids.
This error in diagnosis could have been fatal. If it hadn't for
competing at the USMS National Championships in 2001 my diagnosis might have
been too late; swimming quite possibly saved my life. Second, keep yourself fit; you'll tolerate the
surgery and other procedures much better. I am afraid that keeping fit is
something you cannot put off for tomorrow. Start working out now, as you never
know when cancer will strike. Two days before my surgery I swam a 3000 yard
workout; my surgeon told me that I tolerated the procedure much better than average
because I was fit. Also, if you do not
like the answers you get from the first doctor request a second opinion.
Discuss all the options with specialists; my wife and I discussed the options
and outcomes with the surgeon, the chemotherapy specialist, and the radiation
specialist, before making a decision.
I am writing this story at the end
of March in 2011 towards the end of my Davis Aquatic Masters effort for Swim
Across America. As a cancer survivor I
want to both encourage people diagnosed with cancer not to give up, and to also
to make a financial contribution towards funding of cancer research. This cancer survivor will log nearly 27 miles
during the month of March for the SAA sponsored Davis Aquatic Masters swim
Scott Laurin & Coach Ron
This disease…this CANCER…does NOT define who our daughter is, nor will it ever erase the footprint she has made on our hearts.
our little “Roo” was born on February 6, 2007. Our firstborn, Ansley
was a vibrant, typically developing little girl. However, December 19,
2009 dramatically changed the course of her life and our lives.
into bed with Amy and me that morning, and immediately, we noticed that
her breathing was abnormally labored. By 3:00 am, we were in the
Vanderbilt Children’s ER. On December 21, she was diagnosed with cancer.
Initially, testing would confirm the diagnosis and identify the cancer as embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. On July 14, 2010, Ansley was rediagnosed with a very rare form of cancer: pleuropulmonary blastoma (www.ppbregistry.org). She began chemotherapy on Christmas Eve 2009, has undergone several surgeries and multiple hospitalizations, and will continue a course of chemotherapy infusions and radiation for approximately thirty more weeks.
This disease…this CANCER…does NOT define who our daughter is, nor will it ever erase the footprint she has made on our hearts. However, we have had defining moments throughout this journey--moments that solidify our faith and moments that challenge it just the same; at times, leaving us feeling alone, yet greater moments when the charity and compassion of others render us inadequate to express our appreciation.
When Coach Ron approached me several months ago, asking me if he could organize a team in honor of Amy and me for Swim Across America, I was speechless. When Roger Pond decided to organize a team for Ansley, again, I was humbled by the gesture.
IT IS ESTIMATED THAT 1,529,560 PEOPLE WILL BE DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER IN 2010!
2010 will mark the 24th year of Swim Across America. On August 21, our swim community will have an opportunity to show support for one of these millions, for a loved one or a friend who will be diagnosed or continue to fight this horrible disease.
"We decided we were going to do the event right there in the lake with our family cheering us on"
My sister and I are very passionate about raising awareness and donations
for Cancer research. I have personally lost both my in-laws and a very
close Aunt much too early in life. On the positive side, we do have a
first cousin and close member of our immediate family who is a survivor
from battling breast cancer TWICE in her 30's.
Mary is an amazing woman and is doing so well, has a great husband and very smart adorable 8
year old son. they are a very active family and we thank God everyday
that she had access to the medical care that she received.
My sister and I are very passionate about raising awareness and donations for Cancer research. I have personally lost both my in-laws and a very close Aunt much too early in life. On the positive side, we do have a first cousin and close member of our immediate family who is a survivor from battling breast cancer TWICE in her 30's. Mary is an amazing woman and is doing so well, has a great husband and very smart adorable 8 year old son. they are a very active family and we thank God everyday that she had access to the medical care that she received.
My sister has also been recently diagnosed with Diabetes and has been doing everything possible to change her lifestyle with proper eating, education and exercise. I am very proud of her and have been encouraging her to be more active and participate in athletic events with me. When I saw the add for the swimacrossamerica.com event I was immediately interested, especially since I work for Loyola Medicine. This was the first charity event my sister and I would be participating in side by side and she loves to swim so it just seemed like fate. She has been exercising, but nothing close to swimming 1 mile so it was going to be a challenge for her to overcome.
The date of the event happened to land on the same weekend as our annual family weekend gathering at our house up in Twin Lakes, WI. (Camp Fig) We always look forward to spending the weekend with Mary and her family up at the lake and never take a family get together for granted anymore. So opposed to just donating or rescheduling the family weekend we decided we were going to do the event right there in the lake with our family cheering us on. This was also the same lake that my sister and I learned to swim as children so it was very meaningful for her to attempt her first 1 mile swim where it all began. My husband was our safety boat and my cousin Nicky (Mary's sister) joined us for support. It was so gratifying to be able to do something to honor our cousin, remember our dear family that we miss, raise money and awareness for an important cause, and be proactive about our own health all in the same day. My sister did a fantastic job, finished the mile in under 50 minutes. I hope this has started a new family trend for us on Camp Fig weekend for years to come.
Kathy Smith Connor
"I swim in hopes that my mom and sister - as well as my children - will never have to go through this fight again"
Kathy Smith Connor can credit the start of her swimming career to a hatred
for humidity. While she originally grew up in Seattle, she moved to
Virginia and would often go to the pool to keep cool. It was here that
she was spotted one day by a coach who asked her to swim a length of the
pool and then recruited her to the local summer swim team. By the time
Kathy was 11, she had moved back to Seattle, was swimming year round,
and would continue to do so as a breaststroker and sprint freestyler
Kathy would go on to swim at Stanford University and be
a member of the United States National Team for 7 years, competing and
medaling in the Pan American Games, World University Games, Pan Pacific
Games, and Goodwill Games, amongst others. She was also an alternate for
the United States Olympic Team in 1980 in the 200m Breaststroke.
Following her college days, Kathy has continued her connection with the
swimming world through her children, one of whom is now a competitive
swimmer, and lifelong best friend Mary Wayte Bradburne.
year she went to visit Mary in Seattle to watch her swim in the
inaugural Swim Across America Seattle event. To Kathy this was a
“glorious day” as she got to be involved in an atmosphere where swimmers
were fighting cancer stroke by stroke in Lake Washington. It was also a
very bittersweet day, bringing back many memories of loved ones that
have been touched by cancer. It was this event that has caused her to
passionately want to be a part of Swim Across America for many years to
Kathy will be swimming with her daughter Alayna, who is 10. Kathy swims
for her father who died of cancer 4 years ago after a hard fought 10
year battle. When he moved from the Seattle area to Portland for
treatment, Kathy eventually followed with her family in hopes that her
children’s memories of their grandfather would be strong.
also swims for her mom who is a breast cancer survivor and her sister
who had melanoma. She swims in the hope that they – and her children -
will never have to go through this fight again. As Kathy swims side by
side with her daughter at this year’s Seattle swim, she will be inspired
by all those around her as well as the fact that she will be swimming
in the exact waters that she once waterskied on with her father. She
hopes to bring as many swimmers as possible with her so that together
they can make waves to fight this terrible disease and become as
captivated with the swim as she did herself last year.
"I am an athlete. I am not a surgeon or a scientist saving people’s lives. And I wanted to do more."
I never actually thought I could feel the pain I felt when I was told that one of the most important people in my life had cancer. I know cancer can kill. I have lost numerous family members to the terrible disease, and when
I found out that my godmother Patty had cancer, it was like the world started to disintegrate.
I was standing in the center of the Wilton YMCA lobby. I remember walking through the building and onto the deck. I looked into the water and I thought what kind of change could I make in the pool? Nothing is what I thought; I could make no change in the water, I could not save anything with swimming. But I was wrong.
I had to go to the hospital to see my godmother. As we walked in I could not even breathe, and I will never forget what she said to me, “Let me see that million dollar smile.” So I fought every urge in my body to cry and I gave Patty the best smile I could give.
I was distraught with Patty’s condition. She had Stage IV lung cancer and a brain tumor. She was given four months to live. On the day of my M-Class State meet, I called Patty up and I told her that I would swim for her. If I drop time, then she would fight and beat cancer. So I stepped onto the block and when the horn went off I fought for 500 yards. And I dropped time. So I called Patty up and I told her that I held up my end of the bargain and now it was her turn.
Patty did more than hold up her end of the bargain. She beat cancer, and ran the New York City marathon. Patty showed me something by beating cancer. She showed me that anything is possible. Anything can happen if you believe it. Because of what I have learned from Patty, I have the undying belief that everything is within my reach.
I am a healthy and happy individual. And not all people that had Patty’s odds will survive their cancer. But I am an athlete. I am not a surgeon or a scientist saving people’s lives. And I wanted to do more. So I decided that I would use my particular skill set to help the cause that has grown close to my heart. I swim for cancer. The summer Patty got better, I raised $500 for cancer research and I swam 1.7 miles. This year I asked Patty to do a shorter swim with me and she said, “Samantha, 500 yards for me is like five miles for you.”
What Patty said has stayed with me since I completed that first swim for cancer.
I can swim. So why not use my talent to do more? So this year, instead of doing the 1.7-mile swim, I am doing a five-mile swim. I am going to swim five miles in the Long Island Sound and to do that I need to raise $5,000. If Patty can beat Stage IV lung cancer and run a marathon, I could certainly swim five miles and raise $5,000. When I think about it, I don’t get nervous or wish I had something easier to do because I know that what Patty went through, and what my family members went through was that much scarier and that much harder. Five miles may seem long in the short term, but it is nothing compared to months, years and lifetimes of dealing with cancer.
I swim because I want to make a difference in this world. I swim to help people that need help. I swim to find a cure for cancer. I swim for my godmother Patty who has proven without a doubt that anything is possible. I swim because I can swim and because I can make a difference.
Today, you can make a difference. You can help millions of people like Patty beat cancer.
Go to swimacrossamerica.org and click on Greenwich/Stamford, then click on make a donation and type in my name, “Samantha Salvo,” and give whatever you can give.
Samantha Salvo is a rising senior at New Canaan High School.
"I got to watch my 11 year old daughter, stroke by stoke, build confidence in herself"
asked me what the event (Greenwich - Stamford Swim) was like and I told
them. I thought you’d like to hear my answer seeing as I literally
stumbled onto you guys by accident last year.
The first 4 best days of my life where getting married
to Kat, then the birth of my three girls. Saturday ranks as the 5th
best day of my life. I got to watch my 11 year old daughter, stroke by
stoke, build confidence in herself because at the beginning of the event
she was past being nervous.
She was on the west and I was on the east side and as we took our breaths we would see each other. What a gift. Right before my eyes she shed the fear and by the second buoy was doing butterfly and helping another 10 year old girl deal with her fears. She completed the 1.5 and the confidence was brimming inside her. I saw a profound change almost immediately. Life lesson learned.
If that were not enough, at the end of the event Karen Newman found me because she wanted to meet my wife. At the Kick Off reception she asked how my swim went the previous year. I told her that 10 minutes I wanted to quit but couldn’t. You see, my wife is in the process of overcoming her fear of the water. She’s at the Y doing her lessons religiously. Her goal, Iron Man Lake Placid. She doesn’t quit so I can’t. Well, Karen met Kathleen. After 2 minutes of talking tears began rolling down everyone’s cheeks. Karen, a world-class tri-athlete, wanted to swim with my wife. She gave Kathleen her cell and email address. Words can’t describe how I felt and still feel.
So, you guys help in the fight against cancer, but you also touch the lives of the swimmers participating in the event. Thank you for being a part of giving my Best Day #5.
"I lost my childhood best friend when we were 24 years old."
On July 17, 2010, I'll be participating in Swim Across America, Chicago at Ohio Street Beach in Lake Michigan. I will swim 5K/3.1 miles at the event. This is the fourth year I will swim in memory of my best friend Julie Groenwald.
Six years ago, Julie was diagnosed with melanoma. I lost my childhood best friend when we were 24 years old. I also swim in celebration for my boyfriend Thomas Loverro, who has just completed successful radiation therapy for choroidal melanoma, and in honor of family friend Lindsay Grosse, who is being treated for double breast cancer and is on her way to winning the fight. All 3 of these courageous young people experienced cancer in their 20's. I am amazed by their strength, poise and spirit in confronting their unexpected diagnoses and the challenges that followed.
I am also committed to raise money for the cause. The 2010 Chicago Swim marks the 17th year swimmers will be making waves to fight cancer in Lake Michigan.
This beautiful song, written by Julie Groenwald’s uncle as a gift to her parents at her birth, is a celebration of her life and a keepsake for all of us who love her.
"Julie's Rainbow" - By Jeff Grosser
Julie's rainbow showed up today, I sensed the colors in her eyes. I'm not too sure I was supposed to know, Yet a rainbow is pretty hard to hide. Julie sparkles when the rainbow's inside, She seems to shine like something new. You couldn't see if you searched her eyes, Yet you feel it when she smiles at you. Julie, choose your dream today. The rainbow's in your eyes, And all the world floats by, grey and dry. But Julie, you're alive.
Julie blossoms when the rainbow's inside, It seems there's nothing she can't do. She'll laugh and tell you that she just feels good, And you'll want her, but she won't need you. Julie's rainbow is just for today, Tomorrow someone else will glow. So if you see it in the one you love, Stand aside, and watch those colors flow.
Every time I enter the water, I know my mom is with me. I know she is waiting for me to fight
I swim in memory of my mom, Denise Garvey, who passed away at age 52 on June 8, 2008, after a long battle with breast cancer, a disease that began as chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1997.
I In 2006, I discovered the Swim Across America Chicago Event which benefits the Cardinal Bernardin Center, and at that time my mom was being treated for breast cancer with the help of the professionals there. I can’t really put into words how much my mom means to me, but I can write about how much SAA has meant to me throughout the healing process.
My mom's battle with cancer has shown me how to fight--not only physically through pain, but also to fight life’s difficulties by savoring its small joys. Swim Across America gave me the unique opportunity to simultaneously fight pain and celebrate life.
My mom and I were fortunate to surround ourselves with family members and friends during my first Swim Across America event. Their generosity and love brought a little more happiness into our lives, and their support gave hope to everyone whose lives have been affected by cancer.
Every person has the capacity to choose to savor what is sweet in life, even while experiencing life’s bitterness. I believe you can only appreciate the sweet by understanding the bitter, but you can’t be fully succumbed by either one. I believe people are blessed with the beautiful power to focus on life’s sweetness, and this summer I will fight the waves in my mom’s memory for the fifth time because for me sweetness is the hope, comfort, strength, and love that surround the Swim Across America event. Every time I enter the water, I know my mom is with me. I know she is waiting for me to fight
"It is not just about me and my mom anymore. Your family grows and you see the bigger picture."
I have been involved with Swim Across America, in one way or another, for over 20 years. Back when I was on the Olympic team, there were no agents and there was no such thing as a professional swimmer. Once you were done, you were done.
I became a part of SAA for two reasons. First, so that I could use the sport I love to give something back. Second, because my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in high school and I remember thinking “Oh my G-d…My mom is going to die.”
Back then, there were no support groups and it wasn’t talked about. Though it wasn’t always a death sentence, it usually was. And even when she got better, it was always hanging over our heads. So, I got involved because I remember what it was like for her to go through that.
The first SAA swim I was a part of had literally 7 swimmers and it was really just a group of friends who got together to raise a little money. I was the only “real” swimmer - nobody else even swam through college. The course went from Port Jefferson into Bridgeport and, til this day, it was the hardest course we have ever had. I have done over 50 SAA swims to date and that first one was the so challenging that the people in the boat would laugh as I swam for 40 minutes (that was back when I could swim for 40 minutes) and didn’t go anywhere. Even then, it was comforting to be part of an organization like this – you don’t feel so alone when you are coping with cancer. And, over time, you see how people are directly affected by our events.
We have come a long way since 1987. Now, SAA swims have hundreds of participants, the courses are world-ranked and fun and swims can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have raised $30 million to date! Now that I am on the Board of Directors of SAA, the more I see the greater good that we affect. It is not just about me and my mom anymore. Your family grows and you see the bigger picture. We all become a part of SAA for our own reasons but, once you do, you join the family…There is strength in that.
"To those of you thinking about swimming for SAA, I promise that it makes swimming even more magical."
In 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer for the 3rd time in 32 years. I had surgery on August 20th 2009 and my goal was to recover fast enough so that I could join the SAA event in SF on October 3rd, just three months later. I have been involved with the SAA SF event since 2006 and now that I am a Co-Event Director for the Swim, I wasn’t missing it!
When I agreed to be the co-event director for the SF Bay Swim, I did it because wanted to give something back through swimming. At that time, I didn’t know that I would be diagnosed with cancer again,
so my goal wasn’t necessarily to develop a support system. However, I am beyond grateful that I did because that is exactly what happened. The Swim Across America SF committee as well as the swimmers and volunteers I came to know became my extended family during my battle with cancer.
Those involved with SAA understand what I mean when I say that Swim Across America is a family. We are all here because we care about each other, because we are deeply committed to finding a cure for cancer and because we want to help do it through swimming – the sport that we love. To those of you thinking about swimming, give it a try. During the past 32 years I can honestly say that it has been my solace and has provided me with the strength and determination to power on. To those of you thinking about swimming for SAA, I promise that it makes swimming even more magical and that the friends you make will last a lifetime.