Swim to Live

Posted by: 
Barbara M. Harison

It is hard to believe it is May 2021 and over a year since the COVID pandemic put us all in quarantine and we all have faced many challenges. May is also Cystic Fibrosis Awareness month and during this month the community comes together to help others learn about the disease, share personal stories, and unite behind our mission: finding a cure for all people with CF.

One of the major challenges I faced during the pandemic was not being able to swim as all swimming pools were closed. I could take walks but twelve weeks passed before any swimming pools opened. I have not gone that long without a swim in the 45 years since I have been swimming regularly, usually three times a week. Swimming has helped me survive cystic fibrosis. Swimming laps is not only a good cardio work out, it improves lung function and helps maintain my health. It provides a womb-like protection from the stresses of life and offers mental peace. Something we all need during this challenging time. The first pool to open in my region was 16 miles away. Even though I had to drive 16 miles to get to swim I went up there several times and drove home in my wet bathing suit. Local pools in Ventura, CA opened in late June of 2020 now I only have to drive a mile to the Pierpont Club pool to swim.

I was diagnosed with CF within a month after I turned 64 years old which makes this year the eleventh year anniversary of my diagnosis as I am about to turn 75 years old on Memorial Day. I always figured I was a CF carrier with symptoms, as I lost a younger sister to CF 50 years ago, when she was just 21 years old. My diagnosis in 2010 was actually a positive event as I could finally have the latest treatments available.

During this pandemic I have had lots of time to read books and enjoyed Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui. The book provides a history of swimming around the world particularly open water swimming and competitive swimming. The book emphasizes that swimming is therapeutic for both the mind and the body. The author describes the immediacy of swimming as, “an introspective and silent sport in a chaotic and noisy age; it’s therapeutic for both the mind and body; and it’s an adventurous way to get from point A to point B. It’s also one route to that elusive, ecstatic state of flow.”

When I am swimming I often find myself in the state of flow, where I don’t think about anything and forget how many laps I have swum. Other times I make decisions that I have been pondering. I always remember my Mom who taught me how to swim when I was just four years old at Warm Springs Rehabilitation Institute Pool in Georgia. I value the aquatic spirit she gave me.

The author also cites many other renowned swimmers, including Henry David Thoreau. "Walks in the woods are well and good as Henry David Thoreau illustrated in his classic Walden. But during the two year, two months and two days living in the cabin at Walden Pond between 1845 and 1847 he got up early every morning to swim; he described it as a religious exercise and one of the best things that he did. Each of his swims stimulated body and mind as he lived deliberately in the New England Forest."

I look forward to maintaining my active lifestyle and helping others to stay healthy and active. I only wish my sister; Loretta could still be here and benefit from new treatments and medication for CF. In memory of my sister I established the Loretta Morris Memorial Fund with the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation (CFLF) eleven years ago. The Fund awards Recreation Grants to CF patients to help them Live Stronger and Longer. Preference is given to grant requests for the activities my sister enjoyed: horseback riding and dance; and my favorite activities: swimming, golf, and yoga. The support of 65 friends and family members has enabled the awarding of 194 Recreation Grants over the past 11 years. The total funds disbursed for the grants equal $88,348.


 Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER-


Barbara Morris Harison lives in Ventura, CA and serves on the CFLF Board. She was diagnosed with CF at age sixty four (64). She lost a sister to CF, fifty (50) years ago and established the Loretta Morris Memorial Fund with CFLF in 2010. Barbara is retired after a long career in public parks and recreation administration and management of her own consulting business, Harison & Associates. When she is not swimming laps or golfing she volunteers for community organizations.





***Views expressed in the CFLF Blog are those of the bloggers themselves and not necessarily of the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation*** 


***Please speak with your physician before making any changes to your CF management***


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