“I asked God, ‘Why are you taking me through troubled water?’ He replied, ‘Because our enemies can’t swim.’ (Can I get an ‘Amen’?)” ~Pinterest
How do you live with an enemy you can’t see? It’s a question I ask myself daily. My enemy just happens to be a brain tumor that lives inside my seven-year old son’s brain since he was four months old. My son’s name is Jimmy.
About a year ago we met some wonderful, generous, kind-hearted woman who own a franchise company called, “The British Swim School.” I loved the idea of swimming because as a child my swim lessons became a great love of mine and I’ve carried it with me my whole life. I didn’t know a lot about the program when I enrolled Jimmy and Lily, but I was eager for them to learn how to swim and find their own love for the water. I had no idea at the time how much it would truly benefit both of mine children, but especially Jimmy.
The first thing they learned is how to survive in water. They each started out in the Minnow Class. If for some reason they would fall in a body of water they know how to turn over, float and call for help. They learned safe entry/safe exit with mobility using the wall, how to jump in+ roll over+ float for 20 seconds independently, elementary backstroke of 10 yards. They Swimmers focus on the correct arm, leg and breathing coördination for three strokes: Freestyle, Backstroke, and Breaststroke; students also get an introduction to Butterfly. Children are constantly moving in this class, swimming in groups of twos and threes. Jimmy and Lily learned this all rather quickly and on a family vacation shortly after starting swim lessons they practiced in the pool with such confidence.For the first time our three-year old and 6-year-old could move about in the water without our constant help. The peace-of-mind that brought was priceless.
They moved up to Turtle 1 shortly after. As my husband and I watched them in their 30 minute classes each week we noticed so much more strength in Jimmy’s movements both in and out of the water. Since his brain tumor diagnosis he has received some type of physical therapy since he could walk due to a left side weakness in his body. The more he swam the less we noticed it. He was on monthly chemo treatments at the time, yet he was improving in his physical therapy each week and hitting goals that he was not able to hit before. I attribute it to the swimming because it was the only thing we added as physical movement, but I could tell it was doing more than improving his physical ability. He started to skip which requires skill in your brain to use both sides of, left and right. He was improving mentally as well. We were laying the groundwork for him to regain control of his cognitive and mental abilities that the chemo was robbing him of.
Jimmy and Lily spent the last year mastering Turtle 1 skills which included propulsion skills for survival. Learning beginner strokes on their backs and fronts, and being ready for the more advanced stroke levels. Their goals were set at
1. Streamline with flutter kick independently
2. Jump in+ rollover + float+ swim-flip-swim to safety
3. Independently swim 10 yards of elementary backstroke with arms out of the water
4. Independently swim 10 yards of elementary freestyle with arms out of the water
5. Demonstrate breathing on the side
With the left side weakness Jimmy had balancing troubles from the time he could walk. Being the strong, independent and fearless child Jimmy is he decided to try riding his bike without training wheels on a nice day back in February 2017. He was successful. His core had strengthened so much in the time he started swimming that he was able to maintain his balance and ride a bike all on his own for the first time in his life. I can’t describe with words the feeling we had when Jimmy took off on his bike without us, imagine what you thought was impossible became possible right in front of your very eyes. From sitting in a hospital room holding a very ill baby at 4 months old to watching a six-year-old that wasn’t supposed to medically survive riding his bike all in his own. It was life-changing.
That May, two weeks before Jimmy finished his 1st grade year he ironically fell off his bike and broke his femur in his right leg. Honestly for all we faced medically we knew he would overcome and he did. Jimmy had to have two titanium rods surgically placed into his femur that day and had to keep weight off of it for two months. There was fear from the medical staff that his bones may be effected from the chemo or the steroids that he had for over 7 years, yet when the surgeon went in to the surgery he discovered Jimmy’s bones were strong and just like any other seven-year old. Swimming is known to improve bone health and Jimmy had swum constantly every single week for about a year. As Jimmy’s parents we have discovered that there is always a silver lining in each situation. Jimmy had to walk on his left leg (that has always been weaker) for two months as his right leg healed and in turn strengthened it greatly. He would have never had the opportunity to do so if he never broke his leg. There was concern when he started walking again that he would have a lot of physically therapy needed on his right leg, up to six months in fact. My determined son started walking around six weeks on the leg, even though he wasn’t supposed to until eight weeks. He would laugh so hard when I would tell him not to put weight on it and would say, “Mom it feels good, I’m strong.”
When we finally made it to the eight week appointment with the orthopedic doctor, the doctor says, “well how are you doing Jimmy, I guess we need to do some physically therapy now on that right leg now to get it strong again. Jimmy jumps off the counter, starts dancing and says, “sure doc, that sounds good.” The doctor looks at me so surprised and says, “uhhhh maybe he doesn’t need it?” I insisted on the physically therapy for the right leg and said he would be back in swim lessons this week to help strengthen it. The doctor agreed, but was still so impressed with his movement and strength for such a dramatic break and for how fast he had healed. I attribute that strength of his bones to the swimming.
Jimmy was back in swim that Sunday and improved in physical therapy so quickly the physical therapist said he didn’t need it in right leg anymore after only 4 weeks.
Lily improved and strengthened throughout the year. Jimmy was back on his feet normally in August. Both of our children jumped in a pool and swam about in the deep end, over 8 feet deep with no problem. They are completely independent swimmers. If they get tired they turn over on their backs and float until they regain their breath. To be in a pool and watch our children swim with such ease with no fear of the water is a blessing. My husband and I could relax on the side of the pool as we watched them move around in the water with such ease and calm. Jimmy and Lily are 7 and 4 years old, yet they swim like they were born with the skill.
As I write this Lily just moved up to Turtle 2 where swimmers focus on the correct arm, leg and breathing coördination for three strokes: Freestyle, Backstroke, and Breaststroke; students also get an introduction to Butterfly. Children are constantly moving in this class, swimming in groups of twos and threes. I watched Lily move across the pool with kids so much bigger than her and she actually out swam some of them. I couldn’t be more proud of her and I can only imagine the benefits this will have on her body and mind her whole life. Once Jimmy saw Lily move up, he was motived to do the same. He missed two months when his leg was broken while Lily was still swimming, but he is determined to catch up. I have a feeling he will be moving up sooner than we all think, it’s just his way to always overcome and surprise us all. Jimmy and Lily love their instructors and look forward to seeing them each week. You can tell when people are passionate and believe in a program by the way they teach and how they are with the children. Jimmy’s and Lily have had different instructors as they moved up to different classes and each instructor is passionate and kind in their teachings and my children enjoy every minute of it because of them.
There is much weight in that saying that the little things we add into our lives add up to big things. Thirty minutes of dedicated focus on swimming each week has dramatically changed our lives for the better. Becky and Traci the owners of The British Swim School that so generously shared with us their vision and swim classes has made a bigger impact than any one could have imagined. Through their classes that they offer they built a foundation for my children to improve their body, mind and confidence. In this often busy world we have to pick and choose what we spend our time doing, I know that better than anyone how valuable our time is. That being said these swim classes offered by The British Swim school are worth every minute spent there for it impacts every part of our lives for the better.
So if you wonder how I live with an enemy I can not see, know this, I embrace the little things I can do to strengthen Jimmy from within. Swimming makes his body stronger to fight the battles within him, his mind stronger to overcome the physical and mental challenges he faces and swimming strengthens his confidence to try things he never could before. Sometimes as parents we feel helpless with our children when faced with a challenging situations, in our experience something as simple as swim lessons can help you overcome those challenges. Never underestimate the subtle changes we can make with our kids that lay a foundation for their inner strength to build. If you’re considering giving your children something they will benefit from their whole lives, consider the The British Swim School swim lessons, as it has in our lives we are confident that it will make a positive impact in yours .
Side note: I have very strong feelings about the program and how it has affected our lives for the better. I was not asked to do this, but I feel that people who are doing great things in this world should be recognized and good programs should be talked about and shared with the world. To me The British Swim School is one of those programs.
If your interested check out Britishswimschool.com. If British Swim School isn’t available where you are I suggest you find a swim class, enroll your kids and change their lives for the better.