She is a wife. A mom. A daughter and a niece. A cousin, a sister and a friend. She is 50. She is strong!
11 years ago, Jeri was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She went through radiation in 2000. It came back again in 2002 and 2004. She is on what is referred to as a “watch and wait” plan. She gets an MRI and CT scan yearly, keeping an eye on tumors in her eyes and abdomen. As long as they don’t grow and affect other organs, they are not treating. Watch and Wait! As a way of trying to keep her body strong, Jeri began swimming. Years later, as she continues to “watch and wait” she also continues to swim.
About a year ago, as the ten year anniversary was approaching, she wanted a goal. A big goal! She set her sites on swimming across Lake Tahoe with the aid of her swim coach Joel Wilson. With a regimented hard core 5 month training program, he was confident she could do it. He knew the course, having previously taken others swimmers across the lake. Jeri endured 6 days a week of double days and some pretty grueling practice swims. Not even a case of pneumonia was going to slow her down. The date was set. September 17th, 2011.
They arrived in Lake Tahoe the evening before and it was windy and cold. Jeri thought… “no way is it going to happen.” Jeri request prayer that the morning would arrive clear and wind free. Prayers were answered.
I asked Jeri what she ate pre-race. Dinner the night before was pasta with chicken, tomato and basil. Carbo loading! Her pre-race breakfast (at roughly 4:30 a.m.) was pizza. Really Jeri?? She claims she forgot to buy eggs and thought the cheese on the pizza would serve as the protein. She also had a banana and coffee. Doesn’t quite sound like the breakfast of someone who is ready to swim 11 miles.
At 5:30 a.m. the boat pilot greeted them in the dark and they (Jeri, her husband and daughter, and her swim coach) boated over to SAND HARBOR beach in Nevada. She would be following the TransTahoe route 11 miles across Lake Tahoe. They knew the lake gets a little choppy as the afternoon wind picks up, so she wanted to get an early start to get out of the water as early as possible. They predicted a swim between 6-8 hours. She jumped in the water just as the sky was turning orange.
Jeri is a rule follower. Just ask anyone that knows her. In doing this swim, she followed the official rules of the English Channel Swimming Association.
Once Jeri entered the water, she could not touch the boat or another person until she set foot on the beach. Her coach watched her stroke and fed her accordingly. He knew when she needed protein mixed in the Mint Matte tea or carbs and these were alternated with Goo packets. She was fed in the beginning every forty five and then every thirty minutes. Doak (her husband) jumped in at one feeding. He had to be careful not to touch her. He didn’t last long, the water is cold. Drinks were tossed out on a rope and packets handed off very carefully.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the lake, friends and family were beginning to gather at Skylandia Beach. We had an approximate time of arrival and were kept up to date with the details by Jeri’s daughter. Alyssa was passing time on the boat by logging into Jeri’s Facebook account and posting some interesting posts on behalf of her mom. As the clock ticked close to the 6 hour mark, we anxiously awaited! We knew to expect 6 hours at the earliest, and seriously we were all taken by surprise, when all of a sudden the boat appeared in site!!!! It had barely been 6 hours!!
No one on shore knew the rules of the English Channel Association about touching the swimmer, but Doak made it loud and clear. “DON’T TOUCH HER!” ‘LET HER GET TO SHORE FIRST!” I am not exaggerating, that Jeri (and her coach) would have considered this swim null and void if she did not follow the rules.
As you can only imagine Jeri’s emotions as she set foot on shore in 6 hours, 3 minutes and 1 second!!
Everyone was so proud, especially Doak!
Jeri got some non-stop hugs of congratulations!
A huge THANK YOU to Coach Joel and the boat Pilot Will.
And just a few of the fans that supported Jeri along this journey…..
And to anyone out there that is fighting the “ugly enemy” know as cancer, or any other life threatening disease, I hope this post has given you hope. Here are a few versus that kept Jeri strong through her months and years of cancer.
“You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth/ Also ocean and all things that swim in it.” Psalm 69:34
But as for me, I trust in Thee, Oh Lord. I say, “Thou are My God, My times are in Thy Hand!” Psalm 31:14
“Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
And remember, SHE IS STRONG!!
Along with details for this post, Jeri said, “It was an unbelievable experience as evidenced by my tears at the end. I had encouragement from strangers as well as those very close to me. I will never forget coming into shore and being surrounded by family and friends. While swimming, the clarity of Tahoe is amazing and the sun’s rays created a private light show as I gazed into the deep. Without the worry of jellies or sharks, I enjoyed this very much.”
She also said, “Truly amazing journey! From the beginning idea a year ago when my coach said “you could swim solo across Tahoe!” to the sore muscles today, I felt encouraged, loved and strong! Thank you! Tears were shed as I came into the dock as I was overwhelmed by the experience. Swimming 11+ miles in celebration of 11+ years of lymphoma… God is good!”
Jeri, I love you and am proud to call you my friend!
*If you haven’t already, make sure and watch the slide show in the post below. Something about photos being set to music adds a certain emotion.
**I apologize for the lengthy-ness of this post, but I felt the entire story needed to be told.