• Lifestyle

Why Megan swam at 29 beaches in 29 days

In 2020, five years after receiving a devastating cancer diagnosis, Megan Smith set a goal to embark on an ocean swim at 29 different beaches.

In 2020, five years after receiving a devastating cancer diagnosis, Megan Smith set a goal to embark on an ocean swim at 29 different beaches. She had signed up for SurFebruary (in a Leap Year) joining hundreds of surfers, swimmers, paddlers getting in the water each day of February to raise funds for cancer research.

“I can never thank Chris O’Brien Lifehouse enough for what they have done for me,” Megan says. “I first participated in SurFebruary in 2019 and I had an amazing time. I really felt that I was able to give back to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in a way I hadn’t been able to before.”

Megan Smith

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse – a unique comprehensive cancer centre in Sydney – cared for Megan in 2015 after she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes.

“I went bald, lost most of my ability to walk, tie my shoelaces and do simple tasks, but I’m still here thanks to the wonderful team of doctors and nurses at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse,” she says.

Jenna-Lea Clark, another former Chris O’Brien Lifehouse patient, started SurFebruary with her ocean-loving family and friends in 2018. Their mission was to ‘do good, feel good’ and they’ve ticked both those boxes. SurFebruary has raised more than $600,000 and inspired thousands of people around Australia to raise money for cancer research simply by taking a swim, catching a wave or getting in the water their way every day in February.

Megan admits her first SurFebruary was a challenge, but again a rewarding one.

“I met so many new friends who had their own stories to tell, we were part of a team and we did it together,“ Megan says. “At the beginning of the month I struggled to keep my head above the water. I hadn’t built up any muscle in my right arm following my surgery and I’d gained 30kg due to being immobile with chemo-induced Peripheral Neuropathy. But by the end of the month I‘d lost weight and could swim without sinking. I was doing tumbles and handstands in the water and I even caught my first wave!”

This year Chris O’Brien Lifehouse launched a pilot study looking at how electroacupuncture can help chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy in breast cancer patients. It’s one of the first five projects made possible by the SurFebruary Cancer Research Fund.

2022 will be Megan’s fourth SurFebruary.

“SurFebruary gives me the feeling of accomplishment, setting a goal which is not just about yourself – raising funds for cancer research means someone else benefits from your hard work. This is what keeps me going the most.”

This year the SurFebruary team has set a goal to raise $1 million for innovative cancer research at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. If you’d like to help them achieve that target, it’s not too late to jump on board, it’s free to register here.

For more information on Chris O’Brien Lifehouse click here

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 1 February 2022
  • (Updated on 4 August 2023)

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