Why I Chose to Swim Across Juan de Fuca Strait

Swimming Juan de Fuca Strait was not on my bucket list. It wasn’t until the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada closed Victoria’s MS physiotherapy centre and gym last year that I thought about it. In one fell swoop of the pen I watched 200 disabled people lose access to physiotherapy and their gym, and over 1,000 loose access to a community centre they had built over 40 years. I was mad, really mad, and I had to do something.

My open water swims have always carried a message about the value of exercise for those who have MS, or any disease or disability for that matter. I have no doubt that being healthy can be one of the best ways to manage what ails you. But this time I had to bring my message home – right to the door steps of Victoria. I needed to let Victoria know that I needed their help to help others. That we, the MS community are still here and we need your help in building a new centre.

I am not going to lie, I was terrified of swimming the strait. I had been told it was a very long, extremely cold and often a bumpy ride. I was discouraged by others from attempting it but about one week before Christmas the MS Society of Canada unexpectedly closed the doors to the our centre without notice. Dozens were left without treatment right before the holidays. I was crushed. I didn’t understand how a non-profit claiming to help us could be so cruel to us. I retreated into myself over the next week and then made the decision – I was going to swim Juan de Fuca Strait – #withMS4MS.

I set up this website on December 26, 2016, posted my first blog on December 28th and announced the swim on Facebook January 2, 2017. On July 31, 2017 at 7:15 am I entered the Juan de Fuca Strait from Dungeness Spit just outside of Port Angeles, USA wearing just  a swimsuit, swim cap and goggles. The water was 11.1C. At 5:21 pm I completed the swim by exiting the water at Ogden point in Victoria, BC after 10hours and 6 minutes in cool waters. Donations for the newly formed MS Wellness Centre are still being accepted.

This swim could not have been done without your love and support. It is with the deepest gratitude that I thank you.

Susan Simmons

4 thoughts on “Why I Chose to Swim Across Juan de Fuca Strait

  1. My heart broke and mended as I read your words…it brought back the emotions and pain that we all experienced when the centre closed…..it was a home for so many of us- a safe haven as our journey with MS continued to invade our bodies….I am grateful for your vision Susan….it has held us up and helped us to move forward..

    Love you

  2. Susan,

    You are an inspiration to anyone facing a challenge, whether it be from illness or some other hurdle. You’ve shown us that the journey has meaning above and beyond whatever goal we endeavour to reach.

    Thank you.


  3. Susan,
    You are an inspiration to all. For anyone facing a challenge your strength and determination are inspiring. Your drive to help others is an example to humanity. May the newly founded MS Wellness Centre flourish, as did the original centre prior to it’s demise at the hands of MS Canada.

    Much gratitude

  4. Yes your are a inspiration to all that have MS or any other challenges in their lives, by not given in to it. Was sad to read what you wrote how the MS Society of Canada closed the center and gym down that affected all those people, what were they thinking. You would think all the different news media would have stood up for all and fought to help keep it open. You are my second relative to have MS and my husband had Parkinson’s, and let me tell you I had to fight like hell for my husband just to get PT which his doc gave orders for and they fought me, but I fought back, it took awhile. The best think is swimming for people that are in that position, it did wonders for my husband. Good
    luck on your newly formed MS Wellness Centre. This Centre will help so many and change their lives. Keep up the good work and fight for what you believe in.

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