My story began about 16 years ago. I won’t mention her last name, but many who read this will know whom she was.
As I stated above, I first met Diane about 16 years ago. She was 33 years old and from the Gadsden area. The YMCA there was closed for repairs so she had come up to Health Connections in Boaz to swim.
From the first night swimming with her, our group all knew that she was a very special person. We learned that she had recently undergone a mastectomy of her right breast. What we would learn later as we come to know her better was that she was one of the sweetest, most giving, courageous and giving person we had ever met.
At the age of 12, she won the state parks and recreations 50-yard freestyle event. At the age of 13, on her way to swim practice, she had gotten a ride from a friend on a motorbike. After only two blocks, a car ran a stop sign and hit them. Diane was in a coma for over a month, and when she woke up, she found she had lost her right leg from the knee down.
She gave up swimming until the age of 28 and soon after that, she learned of her breast cancer.
Fast forward five years to when Diane was 37 years old. She had undergone many various treatments. It was quite a roller-coaster ride for her as she was told one month she was cancer free, only to be told the next that the cancer had returned.
In February of that year, Diane and a very close friend who was also our swim coach had put together a team to compete in ‘The United States Masters Swimming’ southeast meet at Auburn University in the small club division. There was more than 25 other teams competing there from all over the United States with one as far away as Oregon.
Diane’s team won first place that day, but there was hardly any joy among the team. On Diane’s first event, ironically the same event she had won at age 12, the 50 freestyle, Diane collapsed just before completing it and had to be pulled from the water. She was taken to a local hospital where we found the cancer had entered her Lymph Nodes and had spread to her brain, something she had learned herself a week before the event and had kept from everyone.
We were able to throw her a wonderful 38th birthday party in March of that year and had there the beautiful trophy her team had won. It was a great night, but it was the last time a lot of her friends and teammates were able to see her.
We buried her body in May of that year, but her spirit will live on as long as anyone who was fortunate enough to have met her remains alive, and then we’ll all swim a lap together with her in Heaven!
John B. Thompson