I felt so much pain in my right shoulder that I could barely lift my arm, I tried to find a way to get my arms moving, to keep going, although I didn’t know how.
With every wave that hit my shoulder I felt a huge sting. Every wave made it apparent that the current was so strong and that I didn’t make any progress. I had to find a way, a way to cut the pain out of my focus, a way to believe that it still can be done. And then a flash of memories came through my mind: Me as a little girl, sitting with my elder brother watching ‚Rocky‘.
I don’t know why these movies fascinated me, but it was probably because of Rocky overcoming so much difficulties, tough circumstances, the rising from the ashes theme and winning against all odds. Maybe I’m a kind of a phoenix, too and so I found myself battling with the pain and waves, reciting this particular quote from the movie:
„Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!“
„It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…,“ I repeated in my mind over and over again. Just another stroke, one arm after another, just moving forward until you reach France.
When my team gave me a signal to stop, I knew it was over. The tide had turned and I would have needed an additional 20 hours to reach the French shore. As I got to the ladder of the boat, I could barely make it to the first step. My body felt achy and wrenched, I was lifted out of the sea like a shipwrecked person. When I took a glance at the cliffs of France in the distance, my eyes filled with tears. France seemed to be so close but also so unreachable. Two years of training for a crushed dream? All for nothing?
I sat in the professor’s office at the clinic, frozen, feeling my heart racing against my chest. „You have an autoimmune disease and we’ll try to treat it with these medications. We have to do this immediately because your liver is only functioning on a minimal level. Normally, this treatment will help to reduce the self-destructing, inflammatory process but just in case it does not the last option would be a transplant…“ I stopped listening after hearing these words. I was shocked and wanted to get out of this cold, white room. I wanted to run away, wanted to disappear where no one can find me.
Ten years later I stood on the beach in Dover at 01.30 am, stepping into a pitch black sea, no moon was shining, only the stars and the light from the boat was guiding my way. How did I come so far after all these years, after the losses of my parents, after burnout and trauma, after overcoming my autoimmune disease?
They say: „Everyone who stood on the beach in Dover, who has come so far, has already succeeded.“
When I think of this journey, of the person I became on this way, it seemed to be true. This journey not only made me stronger and healthy, but it also healed my heart. It’s the journey of a phoenix and as a phoenix I won’t give up on my dream.
I will stand on the beach of Semphire Hoe again and keep moving forward until I feel the sand of France under my feet.
“If you want to successfully swim across the English Channel – you have to leave any doubt on the beach.”
– Lewis Pugh
English Channel, see you in 2024