SwimBowen provides relief for those in cancer treatment

Bowen Islanders in active cancer treatment can receive up to $1,500 from the SwimBowen fund

How important are the little things in life? For someone going through cancer treatment, they can make all the difference in their world. Bowen resident, Mary Letson, knows first-hand the ravages of cancer and how even a bit of support or a touch of self-care can relieve chronic suffering. 

While going through treatment, Letson says she was blessed to have her husband by her side. 

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“Anything I needed to help me feel better he made sure I had it,” she says. “I had physiotherapy, acupuncture, massage…I had my toes painted and pedicures regularly.” 

“It created a space for myself to feel like I wasn’t being destroyed. That there was a bit of space and time where it was more of ‘rebuilding Mary’ as opposed to ‘white cell destroying Mary.’ 

“I had my toes painted and everything else might have felt awful and looked awful but my toes were pretty.”

“I understand that’s not what floats everybody’s boat; but the point is whatever it is that helps lift you up out of the grey, out of the soggy cardboard nastiness of it all. Whatever it is then it’s important to embrace that.”

After Letson recovered, she recognized the deep impact of these little things, such as painted toes, and wanted to support others going through treatment. In 2018, Letson and an incredibly supportive Bowen Island launched ‘SwimBowen’ –an annual fundraising event. To-date, they’ve gifted over $15,000 to support Bowen residents in active cancer treatment. 

As Letson explains, “typically, working is not an option when you’re receiving chemotherapy. Cancer treatment is a full-time job. In fact, it’s more than a full-time job. It’s two full-time jobs –physically, emotionally spiritually.” 

SwimBowen is there to give relief, whether that be emotional, financial, physical, or whatever’s best. The funds are to support self-care or to be used in whatever ways the recipients feel is appropriate for them. 

According to Letson, there are few organizations that offer such immediate support. In Canada, she found only three other similar funds and they all appeared to have onerous application processes. Letson intentionally made the SwimBowen application process as simple and accessible as possible. 

Cancer touches everyone –whether that be you, a family member, your friend’s brother, 

your sister’s boyfriend, or the person next to you in the General Store. Letson encourages any Bowen resident in active cancer treatment to apply through the SwimBowen website (www.swimbowen.com). Applications are also available at the Pharmacy, Caring Circle, our local physician offices and Docs on the Bay. Eligible residents can receive up to $1,500 and the application only needs some basic information and a confirmation stamp from one’s medical practitioner. 

SwimBowen’s goal the first year was $5,000. They raised more than $33,000. Letson attributes that success to the deeply positive reception SwimBowen has received from residents and to an “awesome” SwimBowen Society Board. Letson is also looking to future years to have even more impact –whether that be to gift larger amounts or even to inspire other community to hold similar events within the Salish Sea and beyond. 

The next SwimBowen is Saturday, July 18, 2020. 

Registration for next year’s swimmers opens April 1, 2020. 

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