Alright, I’ve never been a swimmer. I learned only basic strokes as an adult, and started learning free-style less than a year ago. Why? Because my husband was facing what turned out to be the ultimate fight of his life, and it took everything I had to fight with him. He had reached the terminal stage of his disease, and was going into the hospital for a full month of a ground-breaking treatment that we hoped would save his life. And I was looking for something else to focus on during that month that had nothing to do with cancer, something to keep me grounded and sane, so I could be the strong person that my daughter and husband needed me to be.
Did my husband win his battle against cancer? No, he died two months after going into the hospital. Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t begin until the disease had already taken over his body. This was a clinical trial that we had been trying to get into for five months. We had traveled 800 miles to Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, and twice traveled 1,000 miles to MD Anderson in Houston without luck. Then ironically that same study suddenly became available at Northwestern Memorial in Chicago just 9½ miles from our house. We were so grateful that the clinical trial Wayne got into was in our home city, so grateful to be with the same caring, wonderful team of doctors that had been treating Wayne for the last three and a half years. It just wasn’t soon enough.
During those last months of his life, I watched as my husband faded away. The flesh seemed to melt off his bones. He suffered more and more pain. As he started to lose his oxygen saturation, I gradually couldn’t recognize the smart, funny, happy man I had married, because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen to his brain. That was the most painful part. Mid-sentence, he would simply stop talking. He would get confused and not remember things, and then get frustrated. My husband became my dependent.
Back to the swimming. What I had planned to do for a month, turned into a survival tool that continued through my husband’s death, through the grieving, through my return to work, through both my parents’ health crises that followed on the heels of Wayne’s death. Life just doesn’t let up sometimes.
I chose to swim because it was difficult. Humans are not made to glide through the water. It doesn’t come naturally. And getting air? Geez, it took me three months to learn how to breathe bi-laterally. You would think this would be a terrible idea for somebody as stressed out as I was to focus on something so difficult, so foreign to me. But it saved me. It was so difficult I couldn’t think about anything else but the challenge I was faced with. Not if I didn’t want to get a lungful of water. So every swim was like a meditation, an escape. And every time I got out of the water, I felt better about myself and what I had accomplished.
I feel it’s fitting to dedicate this new-found tool to fight cancer in Wayne’s memory. I wouldn’t have started to swim if not for his battle with cancer. For the sake of families looking for that miracle, and the idea that they shouldn’t have to travel 800-1,000 miles for that life-saving clinical trial, Swim Across America is in partnership with hospitals across the nation. Each swim city raises money locally for new ground-breaking clinical trials. I have pledged to raise 9½ thousand dollars symbolizing the 9½ miles that we traveled to a local hospital for the right treatment, so that it may be available in time for someone who else needs it. July 29th at Ohio St. Beach, I will swim one mile in Lake Michigan along with brave survivors, doctors, nurses, and family members of others who have battled cancer. Please support me in reaching my goal of $9,500 by donating in Wayne’s memory to Swim Across America. Thank you for your generosity and may it lead to a cancer-free world!
Swim Across America - Chicago, 47 Polk Street, Suite 100-561, Chicago, IL 60605.
Check should be made out to Swim Across America but please include a note mentioning my name (Colette Adams) as the swimmer you are supporting!
You may wish to check if your employer has a matching gift program. First, reach out to your human resources department to see what paperwork and information they need in order to process the match. Some companies require a paper form, while others complete the entire process online. You will often need our National Office address (11600 N Community House Road, Suite 100, Charlotte, NC 28277) and Tax ID # 223248256.
Once you have submitted the necessary information to your company’s matching gifts officer or financial department, you should email or mail any required confirmation information or paperwork to our National Headquarters at email@example.com or Swim Across America 11600 N Community House Road, Suite 100, Charlotte, NC 28277.
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