As a little boy growing up in the late “60”s and early “70”s I grew up in the South End of Bridgeport, attending Sacred Heart Grammar School, and Kolbe Cathedral High School. Seaside Park and Bridgeport YMCA were my second homes. It was here I learned my skills; swimming in both the summer and winter. My brother Mike and I would often talk about swimming from Long Island to Bridgeport. This is where my story begins.
In April of 2000, while working at Sikorsky Aircraft, I was approached by a co-worker, John Toth, to take part in a relay to Swim Across the Sound. I said "NO WAY". As I walked away from John, he caught up with me and explained the SWIM. The year 2016, will be my 16th SWIM Across the Sound.
In 2003 I was awarded "SWIM Volunteer of the Year" by the St. Vincent's Medical Foundation. I was involved with organizing events, relays and most importantly, in 2001, I organized the first teen relay team with the help of John Toth and the late Dave Parcells.
March 2004, I was awarded The United Way's "Community Builders Award" through the St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation again for my efforts and my involvement .
In January 2005, I moved to Tampa, Florida. and continued to organize swim teams. In 2006, Teresa Gagnon took over as Captain of our SWIM Across the Sound team and I continued to participate in the event.
In August 2014, I received the Maura F. Marden "Dream of Life Award" in recognition of volunteering, swimming and dedication to the SWIM.
I am very proud of these awards and giving back to the community has become a very big part of my life. From this, my kids have also learned that it is important to give back and they do as well.
Now my real story really begins! In July of 2012, the only year I missed the SWIM Marathon - I was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma. I received this news almost to the day of the SWIM Marathon.
I had a complete nephrectomy of my left kidney. My cancer was caught by accident. While at St. Joe's Hospital in Tampa, I received many photographs from swimmers participating in the SWIM Marathon and it helped me throught the pain.
In September 2013, after that year's SWIM I was experiencing pain in my left arm and decided to visit my oncologist. After an MRI, the doctor walked in the office and sighed. He sat down and said, "this is not good." He proceeded to tell me that I had a 2 inch tumor on the exterior left humerus and my cancer had progressed to Stage IV. Another battle begins. After some crying, I decided to face this head on. I told my wife that I wanted to see my grandchildren. I will NOT miss out.
I had the tumor surgically removed. A few weeks later met my radiologist for radiation schedule. After we went home I reached into my car for my paperwork snapped my arm in two pieces had emergency surgery with a 10-½” plate installed on the exterior of the humerus with 12 screws.
I had the tumor surgically removed. A few weeks later, I met my radiologist to schedule my radiation treatments. After we went home, I reached into my car for paperwork and snapped my arm in two places. I had emergency surgery and a 10 1/2 inch plate with 12 screws installed on the exterior of the humerus.
In April 2014, experiencing similar pain to the year before, they found a 1/2 inch tumor inside the humerus of my right arm. In October, I again started radiation treatments and then had a 10 1/2 inch rod installed inside the right arm.
In January 2015, I experienced back pain again. The scan found a quarter size shadow on my L-4. It was removed and replaced with cement. Later we found out that it was benign, but it was again treated with radiation because of my background.
I became involved in a cause in which I believe in and live by. From my story, I have learned many things. I have seen many great friends die from this terrible disease, and have had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people, with no cancer of any kind, who have supported me and the cause. While working at Sikorsky, I was overwhelmed by the people who told me they donated to the SWIM Across the Sound. To be diagnosed in 2012 was unforgettable. I never said, "WHY ME"? and I believe it is because of the power of Swim Across the Sound. For many years, my favorite saying has been "Some things happen for reason".
I talked about accolades - I had no idea that I was receiving them. I can honestly say and will continue to say I have received more in my heart than the swim awards could ever give me. I appreciate what I have learned and what I still have to learn. I will continue Fighting the Fight against cancer and most importantly swimming the SWIM!
As my story continues... I plan on swimming in the 2016 SWIM Marathon. I thank the many doctors here and in Tampa. Dr. Fishman at Moffitt, Dr. Weaver and Dr. Park at Florida Oncology. I thank Dr. Cheong for rebuilding me so I can continue to swim. I get taken aback when these fine people say to me, "man you don’t look Stage IV". I give them a look of amazement, shrug and say "SWIM ON!"
In closing, I will mention Dave Parcells, my Inspiration. I was with him on that dreadful day, April 21st 2007. People like Dave are the reason I am who I am today and why my story will continue - RIP Dave.
Thomas R. Casey