Silencing stress through swimming |

Silencing stress through swimming

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news

Swimming was soothing for Summit High School senior Kelly Secor.

Plagued with years of chronic lyme disease symptoms at the same time she sought to be a high school ski racer, eventually, the symptoms became worse. But her exposure to swimming – which is easier on the joints and doesn’t require fighting gravity – led her to a journey she’s taking with her family this weekend to Omaha to watch the Olympic swimming time trials.

Secor saw the video competition at the base of an email from

“How does swimming inspire you?” the video competition asked.

Well, Secor has a story. She told it to the tune of Five For Fighting’s “100 Years,” a song about the trials of life – but repeats that “there’s still time for you. Time to buy, time to lose yourself.”

In the video, Secor starts from the beginning.

“My name is Kelly. Sports were a huge part of my life, but one day, everything changed,” she narrates over the music.

She’d had symptoms of lyme disease since eighth grade, but symptoms were worsening; her body was getting weaker. The doctor recommended she steer clear of a sport like ski racing, which is tough on the body.

So, she gave swimming a try during her freshman year of high school. That was 2008.

“I loved being on the team,” Secor said. “They helped me a lot and helped bring courage to me. Swimming just helps me feel better. They always encouraged me to do my best even when I wasn’t feeling well.”

She enjoyed her first year, but soon her weakness and fatigue increased, making her muscles so tired, she was eventually confined to a wheelchair.

Not entirely saddened, even with a just a few options for treatment, she left with her mother, Nancy, and headed to Kansas City to receive treatment with known side effects. The alternative was to be confined to a wheelchair and receive a feeding tube.

“I had IV treatment every day for two years,” Secor says. “Every day, I would dream of swimming again. The side effects made me gain weight, have seizures and lose all my muscles. My recovery was predicted to be tough and long.”

Upon her return home, she took to physical therapy, trying to lose weight – and every chance she got, she hopped in the pool. She even rejoined the team when she came back to school in her senior year.

But, as things do, another thing came Secor’s way. Her mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. She’s now doing well, but it has meant that Nancy can’t attend Kelly’s continued treatments in Tennessee, leaving father Steve and Kelly’s younger sister to help out.

That doesn’t stop either of them from smiling.

“My team supported me and swimming was a my way of getting away from the stress,” Kelly Secor said. “I cut 10 seconds off my time this season while still fighting my illness. I also received Most Outstanding Swimmer for my dedication and courage.”

From friend Gretchen Kroening’s viewpoint, both women are models of determination.

“I think Kelly gets that determination and will to put one foot in front of the other from her mamma because that’s certainly Nancy’s outlook,” Kroening said. “(Nancy’s) just a real inspiration to me with her ballcap on and with Kelly coming in sometimes with her. They’re both smiling. They’ve chosen to see it as a great challenge.”

Winning the contest means the Secor family is flown to Omaha, with flight, hotel and tickets for four days of trials paid for.

“I’m really excited to see Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin from Colorado,” Kelly Secor said, adding that seeing Michael Phelps and all the other Olympians is also exciting. “I’m excited to see how fast they go. On TV, you don’t get to see how hard they work. It will be cool to see it.”

Kroening thinks winning the contest is a needed break for the entire family.

“They get away from the monotony and the day-in, day-out of going to treatment of some kind or going to a doctor. All the more, the whole family could go and participate,” she said. “They’re all working so hard to get over this hurdle in their lives.”

To Secor, swimming – any sport, for that matter, but swimming because it’s what her body could handle – helped her forget.

“Swimming helps me forget what I’ve experience, and is a way for me to get away from all the stress. The thought of getting back in the pool pushed me to get through my long-term treatment,” Secor said. “Swimming inspires me to keep fighting and help others fight. I traded my wheelchair and IVs for a cap and goggles.”

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