It has been 288 days since I removed myself from the middle of Juan de Fuca Strait after 7 hours and 36 minutes in waters as cool as 9C. My body continues to heal.
If you had asked me 2 months ago how I felt about re-entering the waters of the Salish Sea to attempt a single crossing for Victoria, Canada to Port Angeles, United States, I would have said I am terrified, and I don’t think I can do it. My training program this year has been disrupted with bouts of fatigue, stress, deep depression and injury. Yet I persisted. Here’s why:
It has been twenty-four years since I initially heard the words “you have multiple-sclerosis.” During that time I have been two people. One was the person who gives into the disease believing there is nothing I can do to be better my circumstance and intern did nothing. Living in a state of helplessness increased the number of my symptoms and the severity of them. It lead to isolation and a sense of worthlessness. Doing nothing wore at my soul.
I have also been the person who believes that doing something is far better than doing nothing. My something was to use nutrition and swimming as my main disease management tools. From the moment I switched from nothing to something, I shifted from dying to living.
How did I make the switch ?
I have always believed that the community that surrounds can be our greatest gift. And if in that community there is just one person who extends a hand, or their heart, we can develop and strengthen our sense of worth. In my case it was a heart – a great big heart. My partner of 26 years Ray made it loud and clear 14 years ago that I was worth something to him, and through that I became something of worth to me.
How do I continue to persist?
I think many people with MS believe they are not worth something. As I persist in managing the disease, I have come to know many others who have the disease. And I have come to see the difference between those with MS and those without. People without MS persist by choice, people with MS persist to survive. I have learned to persist to survive.
Please join me on my journey through the Salish Sea 3 this year between July and August as I persist to survive. And while I swim, if you could be a Ray – the person who says to someone “you are worth something to me” – I would greatly appreciate it.