Woman with MS completes marathon swim of Cowichan Lake


Susan Simmons, a 49-year-old Victoria woman, was exhausted but thrilled Sunday having completed a marathon swim of Cowichan Lake, a 33-hour, non-stop effort that began 2:30 p.m. Friday and ended at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

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Simmons has multiple sclerosis and wanted to raise awareness about the disease and send the message that you can have fun and achieve your dreams, even with MS in your life.

Simmons said she was more an emotional wreck as she recovered from the huge effort of swimming the lake lengthwise in both directions, a distance of about 70 kilometres.

“I fell asleep in the water twice, and had some hallucinations,” she said.

Physically she’s fine except from where her bathing suit shoulder strap chafed her neck.

She had a large team of people helping her in the swim, including a friend that swam with her all the way.

By the end, both swimmers were suffering from exhaustion and hypothermia.

“It’s like being in a fridge for awhile,” said Simmons.

She couldn’t take on any food after one point because her stomach was in knots. Finally, she managed to sip ginger ale and then take 10 strokes and repeat.

With 10 kilometres left, “I was, like, get me home.”

When she would lift her head to look forward, she’d see hallucinations that included nuns in white and devilish-looking creatures. It all became a bit alarming when she was told to swim toward the white light that marked the night-time end of the swim.

“For that last hour, I couldn’t think properly — I had to rely 100 per cent on my crew,” said Simmons.

She swam completely through Friday night and partly into Saturday evening. While swimming in darkness was odd, there was beauty in being under the starry skies, she said.

Asked if she’s planning any new challenges, Simmons said she’ll “hold off for about a week” on that.

She raised $5,000 for MS research.

MS, affects 100,000 Canadians, often striking adults between ages 20 and 40. Symptoms can include vision probems, numbness and lack of coordination.

While swimming has helped Simmons manage her symptoms better, she had concerns that the effort would bring on an attack that could have brought it to an abrupt end. In the end, all went well.


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