This is my 8th year participating in Swim Across America and probably my most meaningful. This year my goal is to complete the 4 Mile Swim in honor of my wife, Cassie Thompson, who was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in June and my father, Gary Hamblin, who was diagnosed with skin cancer this past winter. My way of giving and helping those in need is to swim.
It took just 3 weeks for our world to be turned upside down. What started as some abnormal eye pain turned into Cassie going to the eye doctor since she’s always had perfect vision and no eye problems. It was originally thought to be stress/ lack of sleep related. Get some more sleep and try to destress, both of which can be hard to come by with a 3 year old and 1 year old. Two weeks later at her follow up it was seeming to be something more. There was fluid leaking from what seemed to be a freckle on her eye. The doctor didn’t like it and said let’s send you to a retina specialist. More tests at the retina specialist and he too was concerned with what he was seeing so we were referred to Mass Eye and Ear. Less then 48 hours later, Cassie goes in for another round of tests.
We get called in to the doctors room and we hear the words that have been thrown out as a possibility but we were hoping it wasn’t; ocular melanoma. What are you suppose to do when the love of your life has been thrown this massive curve ball? What's going to happen? Can we get rid of the tumor? How do we tell the boys? Would they understand that their mom has an ouchie that can't just get better? But the worst thought is the thought of losing her.
Luckily we seemed to have caught the tumor very early. It’s currently small and they won’t grow fast. As we learn Cassie’s course of treatment we gain information but are still left with so many unknowns.
I can’t help think but 5 hours after Cassie came and told me that Dr Gage was really concerned with what she was seeing, we were walking into a Swim Across America event. We were surrounded by others that have played big roles in making SAA Nantucket what it is. The clear message is that our swim is special because it all about community. It’s scary not knowing what the future will hold, but we have an amazing support team.
I had just committed to the 4 mile swim in honor of my dad but now I add someone to that. I add my best friend, my rock, my wife. I can’t take any of the pain and fear away but I can do what I know. I can raise money and swim to help support what is now our own personal battle with cancer.
Nantucket is a special place and I am lucky enough to raise my two young sons in this great community and have my parents living on Nantucket and involved in their grandsons’ everyday life. My parents are the kind of grandparents that any kid would wish for, handmade sandboxes, swing sets, and blowup pools (that they fill from the hot water heater so the kids don't get cold) liter Grammie and Grampie’s backyard. So this winter when my father or “P” as my 3 year old calls him, was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma it felt like a gut punch and there were so many unknowns. Would my children have their Grampie for many years to come or would their time be cut short? Would I lose my Dad sooner than I ever thought imaginable?
Dad explained that what he thought was just a simple pimple on his neck turned out to be cancer and that in the spring he would have to undergo a Mohs Procedure. Fast forward to the middle of April and Dad was going into surgery. Several hours later I received a text from my Mom saying that Dad was doing well and the procedure was considered a success.
I am thankful everyday that I get to see my Dad daily and even more thankful that my sons will have their “P” in their lives for many years to come. While the procedure was a success, it still sits in the back of our minds that “it” could come back at anytime.
It's times like these that we cherish the time we have with family. I ask that you help in any way that you can to support my 4 mile swim. I swim for my family. My dad. My wife.
In our lifetime, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer. I joined the SAA community so that, together, I can change that. I am challenging myself by swimming in the Nantucket Island Swim and raising as much money to fight cancer on Nantucket.
With every dollar raised from our Swim, we are changing the game of cancer care on Nantucket and we should all be proud of that. Proceeds directly support the Nantucket Cottage Hospital (NCH) and the Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket (PASCON) oncology efforts to fund vital services for local and visiting cancer patients, minimizing their need to travel for appointments, testing and treatment. Our support allows NCH oncology programs to keep more Nantucket residents on-island for their cancer care, providing them a compassionate and caring environment. We help bring world-class oncologists to the island, allowing our patients to receive treatments at home. Through PASCON, our patients and families receive important physical, emotional and spiritual care free of charge.
Please support me by sponsoring my swim and making a gift. The money you give will go towards cancer care on Nantucket. Thank you for your generosity and may it lead to a cancer-free world!
You can make a credit card donation by clicking on "DONATE" or send a check to Swim Across America - Nantucket, PO Box 3271, Nantucket, MA 02584
Check should be made out to Swim Across America but please include a note mentioning my name as the swimmer you are supporting!