Making Waves to Fight Cancer
Hello wonderful friends and family,
This year marks my eighth year participating in Swim Across America. Over this time, and with your help, we have raised almost $60,000 to fight cancer through the amazing work of Dr. Robert Goldsby, Dr. Julie Saba, and their teams at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. I am continuing as a member of Team Susan Survives, led by my dear friend and inspiration Susan Helmrich, whose team has collectively raised over $1,000,000.
2023 marks a new year of swimming and fundraising challenges for me. In January, I became the youngest person to complete the Molokai Channel in Hawaii, between the islands of Molokai and Oahu. I ended up swimming for 27 hours and 33 minutes continuously and it was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. You can watch my presentation about the swim here. I dedicated my swim to Sam, a family friend who in December of 2022, passed away at the age of 12 from a rare brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). Sam and his family’s fight really inspired me and kept me going over the course of those 28 miles. It was an honor to get to carry Sam’s name across the channel with me, and my heart goes out to his family, Lila, Mike, Kate, & Bailey.
On July 15th, I will be attempting to swim the 28 miles around Manhattan Island. This will be the second of three marathon swims that make up the Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming, which includes the Catalina Channel, the English Channel, and Manhattan. I’m excited to be kayak-supported by our amazing friend Todd Devenish, who solo kayaked the Catalina Channel with me in 2021.
Every swim has its own challenges. The unique thing about this one is that my training has been greatly limited by a health scare I had 3 months ago that kept me out of the water for the first two months of my planned three month training season. Last March, I had what should have been a very minor ski crash, but I immediately got this excruciating abdominal pain. After a visit with Ski Patrol, we made our way to the Emergency Room and late on a Saturday night, after a CT Scan, we were told that they had found a large tumor on my pancreas that had ruptured when I fell. Fast forward to Tuesday of the following week, and after an ambulance ride to the UC Davis Medical Center and a stay in the ICU, they operated to remove the tumor. I’m one of the lucky ones. The grapefruit-size tumor was benign and with the exception of a massive scar across my stomach, I will be okay. This brief but terrifying experience gave me and my family a small taste of what people go through when confronted with a terrifying medical situation. It gave me even greater respect for what people with cancer experience, and made me even more committed to this effort.
This year I’m setting the ambitious goal of raising $25,000 for Swim Across America. The fight against this awful disease does not stop. Just last week my beautiful friend Diane was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, I know that most people reading this note will also be affected by cancer in some way this year. Please know that I am raising money for each and every one of you, and your fight inspires me to keep swimming.
If you, a friend, or a family member has ever been affected by cancer, I would be honored to carry their name on my cap, both during Manhattan and at the San Francisco Swim Across America event on September 30th, when I’ll jump in the San Francisco Bay with Team Susan Survives and many other inspirational swimmers, to raise money in the fight against cancer.
You can learn more about my efforts and make a credit card donation at swimacrossamerica.org/maya. You can also send a check to Swim Across America, PO Box 475842, San Francisco, CA 94147. Checks should be made out to Swim Across America but please include a note mentioning my name –Maya Merhige– as the swimmer you are supporting!
Thank you for your generosity and may it lead to a cancer-free world!
My greatest thanks,