Bucket List item - check!
Bucket List item – check!

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. ~Colin Powell

Wow. What a month (and more) it has been. When I last left you, I was training for my Bucket List moment of swimming competitively in synchronized swimming, at the age of 50 years, with the chronic illnesses of MS and a seizure disorder. Swimming despite the stigma that often comes for people with chronic illness such as MS and seizures. 

My goal was to fully take back the water…and take back a piece of me that had felt empty.

On April 12, 2014, only a few days after turning 50 years old, I swam competitively with my synchro team at the NS Provincials here in Halifax. My Bucket List moment was achieved! Swimming synchro (check); Swimming competitively (check); age 50 years (check). Bucket list item – check!

Now, while I am celebrating, it took me a while to get this online because I my bucket list moment was, … well, it took a bit of a turn. During the first routine (technical routine) I was accidently kicked in the back of the head while performing a certain walkover sequence towards the end of the routine. My head exploded in pain, I saw stars and was disoriented, but I kept on until the end. After getting some ice and a quick check by the lifeguards, I pushed on to the next routine (freestyle). Unfortunately, that, in hindsight, turned out to be a bad thing for me to do because I had sustained a concussion from the kick, unbeknownst to me. Talk about a freak accident!

I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish. ~ Chuck Norris

So – can a 50 year old woman, with MS and a history of seizures, still perform effectively in synchronized swimming, let alone compete? We know that exercise is vital for helping manage MS, and for me personally, I rely on exercise to help manage the pain I have from the spasticity in my legs especially. But competing in synchro? At my age? With my challenges and the stigmas that often come with them? Was I nuts?

Nope – not nuts…but very, very determined.

Here is the tech routine (below). I am the one in the middle in the row  on the right side of the clip at the beginning. Near the end of the routine I am in the far left, and just before the walkover you can kinda see my head get clipped. Then you can see me in the final cadence…I am at the end on the left. So…Yes! I CAN swim, despite challenges!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhR6WxuhKm4

Next is the freestyle routine, which was swam after the kick to my head in the tech routine previously. I am the one on the top RHS row. You can see me mess up a leg sequence and come up early before we grab our heads for the next sequence. If I look lost – it’s because I was! The concussion was making me lose balance and orientation. At that point I started to think “Hmmm…maybe that kick did more to my noggin than I realized!” But I slogged on to the end of the routine..because the show must go on!

The concussion effectively benched me for the rest of the season and has kept me away from the electronic world for weeks! It will be a while yet before I am back to 100%. But sport sometimes comes with risk…that is simply a reality. Sucks, eh.

But…Despite the freak accident that has left me with a concussion (and frustated as heck having activity curtailed as a result)…I can happily say that I did it. I reached my goal!! Was I perfect? Nope. But then, nor was anyone else. Bucket list item…happily and proudly check!!!

So what did I learn from all this? I learned that despite the physical challenges MS brings, I can still achieve my goals, lofty or otherwise. I learned that having MS means that I have to find new tools to help me achieve my goals sometimes – I have to think outside the box if I want to succeed. I learned that the mental challenges that are part of synchronized swimming helped improve my cognitive skills. The improvement in my cognitive skills helped improve my self-confidence.I learned, yet again, that all the sweat, tears, and hard work is worth it…for the simple knowledge that I can do it is absolutely priceless. I took back the water, and filled back that vital part of me that knows I am most at peace when I am my own master and happy in the water. That, in turn, helps me manage my MS.

Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe. ~ Gail Devers

Next up? There is no doubt I will keep swimming. I plan to keep competing, too. And…I have been so impressed by how much swimming synchro improved my own cognitive challenges due to my MS, I have started moving to create introductory synchronized swimming classes for challenged bodies.  Stay tuned!