Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
I have always loved the water. As a child, I never wanted to get out. The games never got boring, and the water was never too cold. Pools, rivers, lakes and oceans were places of happiness for me. Although I was on a summer swim team as a young teen, swimming competitively was not that important to me. In high school, I joined other teams, and spent my summers on the beach playing in the waves and working on my tan.
As a young adult with a budding career, I found myself in an office for long hours and realized that I needed to schedule time for exercise. I discovered aerobics, but found time to be in the pool now and then. As my life got more complicated with a husband and two young boys, the pool became my workout of choice. Before dawn, at lunch or at night I would find my way to a lane, immerse myself and start a conversation with the lane’s black line that drew me along. In the pool, I can sort my thoughts and cares of that particular day. Through the steady pace of pulling, kicking and breathing, I sometimes find direction or an answer. When my swim is over and I pull myself out, my anxieties stay behind.
In late 2009, my life changed. Rectal cancer. Major surgery.
Thankfully, the disease was stage 1 and I didn’t need chemo or radiation. I am fortunate. But also, there would be no swimming for eight weeks. When I was able, I approached the lane, 15 pounds weaker. The water beckoned like an old friend promising to help me heal. And it did. Oh so slowly, my pas de deux with the black line restored my strength, and it teased me gently to increase my distance. All the while, the water faithfully held me up and absorbed my tears and pain as I pulled through. Time also heals.
Soon, I got better, and friends urged me to try open water swims. My husband joined me, and we swam Oceanside, Newport Beach and the San Francisco Bay. As I finished each swim, I felt triumphant over cancer and hopeful.
However, cancer is relentless. In August 2013, it was once again removed from my body. Metastatic. I needed 18 weeks of chemotherapy, and there were lousy overall survival statistics. Time to get back to my lane. Once again, the water faithfully delivered restoration and movement in my recovery efforts.
Now it is four years since surgery, and my cancer remains in remission, although peripheral neuropathy continues to plague both of my feet, and lymphedema weighs down my entire right leg and foot. But in the cool water, my feet burn less, and my right side is supported as I extend to kick. And kick I do, as I put my head down to swim, and of course, converse with the black line that keeps me straight.
I am thankful that my lifelong love of the water and swimming is sustaining me during my cancer life chapter. To what end? Who knows. However, I do know that one day my body shall be left in the water, at which time I will be free to swim wherever I choose. No doubt there will be a black line to lead me along, as it always has.