Why do I swim? Check out the video footage of last year's event (and watch closely for a familiar face!) with the link below:
Pretty inspiring video, right? But for me, it's extremely personal too. Watch the video to the left (Why I Swim) and read my story below:
In April 2015 I started to get sick. At the time we thought it was an infection and I'd get right through it. But then I didn't. I got worse. In August 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma: inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor (IMT). IMT is so rare there is little research on it. It is commonly diagnosed in children and teens. When examining my history, we are sure that based on some tests I had in the past that I have had the tumor since at least high school, if not before. I like to joke that I have literally been carrying a piece of childhood with me and I just can't let go. Goes with my personality :).
I was scheduled for surgery on August 26, but fortunately we cancelled the surgery at the last minute. I was eligible to try a new genetically-targeted oral chemotherapy pill that would potentially shrink my grapefruit-sized tumor. This would allow for a less invasive surgery in place of the one I would later find out my surgeon thought I may not have survived because I was so sick. Fast forward to December 2015 when I was a bubbly, vibrant new person. The tumor had shrunken 80 percent and I felt as good as new. I was on the chemo for about 5 more months and then had the tumor removed in May 2016. I continue to undergo chemo treatment while I wait for radiation therapy to start to blast out the minimal remains of my tumor that they were unable to remove with surgery.
Almost 4 months to the day after surgery I plan to be in the water, swimming in some capacity with Swim Across America-Atlanta. My recovery has been long and tough so far, but I have dangled the "carrot" of swimming over my head from even before surgery. I got involved as a volunteer on the planning committee for Swim Across America in early 2016 as motivation to return to my first love of swimming while fighting not only for a cure for myself but also for millions of people around the world. As soon as I joined the committee in February 2016 I was back in the pool, training for the open water swim that would occur 7 months later, even though we were unsure whether the extensive surgery I was going to need would prevent me from ever returning to the water.
Fortunately, I proved everyone's fears (including my own) wrong. Six weeks after surgery I was back in the pool. It was tough at first. I felt like I was sinking. I chipped away at it bit by bit, taking baby steps to get my strokes back. It was incredibly difficult, but I didn't let that stop me. And then I hit another setback. I somehow managed to break a piece of titanium hardware that was implanted in my surgery--one that would give my chest wall stability in place of removed ribs. So I had to have another surgery to remove the hardware, which set back my SAA training even more.
But I didn't let that stop me. Five weeks after surgery, I completed the 1 mile swim at Swim Across America-Atlanta. It was an amazing experience, to say the least. This year I'm raising the bar---I'm committing to fundraise more, and swim in even more events. I'll also be participating in the June 24 Stamford-Greenwich SAA event.
I couldn't be more excited and inspired for this amazing cause, whose proceeds will go directly toward pediatric cancer research at the AFLAC Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). Not only do I swim for the kids at CHOA, but I also look forward to working with them weekly in the hospital as a physical therapist.
This year our goal is to raise over $400,000 in the Atlanta swim organization. I have set a personal goal of raising $3,000 and a team goal for team #Takethatbenedict + Amazing Grace at $10,000 though I am challenging myself to raise even more than that to benefit a cause that is near and dear to me.
P.O. Box 1078, Tucker, GA 30085
THANK YOU for your support. Let's go make waves to fight cancer!