Swimming Through Cancer

October 19, 2016

It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m one of the top eight swimmers in the 200 yard backstroke in the finals at the regional championships. I feel butterflies in my stomach. I’m tired after three long days of competition. I force negative thoughts out of my head, “It’s only a 200 back. I can do this. I’ve done this for years.”
It’s November 6, 2012. My mind is foggy as we walk out of the clinic. My mom’s face is empty. “Mom,” I ask cautiously, “what does lymphoma mean?” I search her eyes for an answer. All I see are her tears. “It’s a type of cancer,” she chokes out. We race to Children’s Hospital.
My stomach is tied in knots as the official blows his whistle. The eight of us plunge into the water. Bubbles float up and tickle my feet as I take my ready position. “Take your mark.” BEEEEEEEP! I launch off the block. I want to beat my time from earlier today, so I give it my all.
In round one of chemotherapy, I have no idea what to expect. When the drugs kick in, my legs ache, my stomach clenches, and my mouth tastes like saline. I feel weak, but I try to be strong and pretend that it doesn’t hurt. Towards the end of the round, still trying to be confident, I drag myself into the shower, scrub shampoo through my hair, and notice that huge clumps of hair come out. Tears roll down my cheeks.
I flip turn into the second 50 yards of my race. My legs burn, but I push myself to stay with the swimmer next to me. I’m doing well because my coach happily cheers. Inside though, I feel pain and anxiety. I wish racing was easy, but it isn’t.
I lay in bed watching TV in the second round of chemotherapy. I don’t recognize the characters. I ask my mom who they are. She laughs, thinking it’s a joke. As soon as she realizes that I’m serious, her face becomes blank. Chemotherapy is brutal. The longer treatment goes, the harder it is.
The third 50 yards are the hardest because I want to be done, but I’m not. I’m fatigued after holding a strong pace. My breath gets shorter. My legs are numb. My coach’s cheer sounds more concerned. Deep down, I still want it. As the third 50 goes on, I see splashes pass me in the neighboring lane. I fall behind and panic.
I lay uncomfortable in my hospital bed during the third round. An extra day in the hospital makes me anxious. I want to go home. My swim team friends visit after practice. They walk into my hospital room, and I instantly smell chlorine. The scent relaxes me and my anxiety goes away. I
miss them when they leave, but mostly I miss the smell of chlorine.
I make my final push of the race. my body aches and feels like collapsing. I am out of breath. I give everything left and fling myself into the wall. I finally finished the race.
I dread the last round of chemotherapy. As I sit in the chair, I hear the machine make it’s awful noise that is now a joyous beep, marking the end of treatment. I’ve completed chemotherapy.
I did not win or get a bet time in my 200 backstroke that day, but I did beat cancer and am now cancer free. I learned that victories come from unexcited places. I am victorious. I am courageous because I faced the challenges of cancer. I am stronger and more confident than I was because I know what it mens to work my hardest. I am determined to give one-hundred percent, no matter the results. I am Marri.
Marri Kutz