Swimming with Suzanne

Well of course my first swim had to be with Suzanne.

When I moved to Luxembourg, there was this brief, sweet moment when I was waiting for my visa to be finalised before I could start working. I set up my new apartment, explored my new home, joined a stack of social groups, say yes to everything was my motto, and went swimming.

One day I was sitting on the edge of the pool after a swim when someone garbled something to me. “Haaay?” I responded eloquently, and this woman sidled over and started sharing a random variety of thoughts with me. I responded in kind. She invited me for coffee. I was true to my motto and said yes.

Over the following weeks Suzanne and I met regularly to swim until I had to start work and, over the following year, we became firm friends; visiting castles, having dinner parties, hiking, drinking too much wine and, of course, swimming. Our conversations always had at least 18 threads and her math was dubious at best, but we amused each other.

Telling Suzanne that I had found a lump in my breast was nerve-wracking as I knew that she had breast cancer ten years earlier, but she came with me when I got my diagnosis, held my hand while I waited for my appointment, took notes while I was too shocked to comprehend what I was being told, and stood in the car park and held me while I wept inconsolably, standing as strong as stone and holding back her own tears as my world crumbled around me.

Being diagnosed with cancer is beyond devastating, being diagnosed in a foreign country with no family, a limited support network, no understanding of treatment, the hospital system, health insurance or the language is impossible. But into this breach stepped Suzanne, supporting me through those first critical weeks when I tried to understand what was happening to me, had so many appointments and tests and went into overdrive of setting myself up for what I was expecting to be a hideous year of critical illness.

And then treatment started. Debilitating, terrifying and relentless. Family and friends came, but the consistent support was from Suzanne. Even when I was awful, even when I hated the universe including her, even when I was no longer myself, she was someone I could always call to come with me to an appointment, for lunch, for a walk, for a howling weep in a rainstorm.

Shortly after my diagnosis, Suzanne looked at me with realisation and announced, “This is why I talked to you at the pool that first day. It was so I would be here for you during this.”

During my treatment, we talked many times of swimming, it had brought us together and was something we both love. So when I was cleared to swim again, of course it had to be with Suzanne.

The swim itself was somewhat lack lustre, it was a scorching day before she and her husband went on holiday and I saw my oncologist, she was stressed and I was agitated. I was also overly ambitious, finding that my chest was still painful from radiotherapy. We did a few token laps and waded around the pool catching up and enjoying this auspicious moment nonetheless, more of a psychological milestone than anything else.

And then, in true Jessica and Suzanne style, the ridiculous happened. A woman swam over to us and started chatting. We looked at each other and laughed, what were the odds of going on our historic swim together, reminiscing about how Suzanne picked me up in a pool, only to have another random woman start chatting to us. To add to the hilarity, when I called Suzanne by name, the other woman looked confused and asked how I knew her name. Picked up by two Suzannes in a pool. Now that is poetry. 

Distance swum since last post: 0.3km
Distance swum to date: 0.3km
Distance to go: 199.7km

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