The following inspirational story was written by community member, Giovanni Profeta. Help us celebrate his 2-mile swim in open water by leaving congratulations in the comments below!

I am a sports enthusiast. Prior to my diagnosis, I was a swimmer and freediver. My whole life gravitated towards being submerged in water. From a young age, water was an essential part of who I was. I was on top of my game physically, but something arrived unexpectedly to disturb the calm waters of my inner self.

Multiple Sclerosis came into my life in 2010, bringing despair along with it. I experienced balance and mobility issues, physiological disturbances, and more on a daily basis. One of the things I asked the doctor was, “Will I still be able to freedive?”

Giovanni taking a selfieThe answer was clear, “You’re entering a new chapter in your life’s story. Always look forward with optimism, you can still achieve great things, Giovanni.”

Months passed by, and everything related to my previous life made me feel terribly depressed. Like water coming down from a steep place, I chose the easy route. In my mind, desperate measures needed to be made; I stored all my freediving gear inside of a box along with my medals, trophies, and photos. A lifetime of memories and achievements packed away for good.

I’m not sure if it helped, but I couldn’t stand looking at them every day. It was torture.

But then I began to feel somewhat better physically and my whole life changed once again. One of the first things that crossed my mind was to get back to the pool. I decided to give it a try, and swam for the first time after my time away from the water.

How can I describe what I felt? It was pure bliss.

Lap after lap I managed to get further away from what was haunting me for more than a year. In the water, MS has no control over my body. I always say that multiple sclerosis doesn’t know how to swim; MS is afraid of water.

Giovanni pointing to AlcatrazThat moment became the catalyst for me to conquer one my wildest fantasies: the Alcatraz crossing. It was the perfect challenge to get me out of my comfort zone.

The preparation made me feel alive again. I was working toward a goal, there was something to look ahead with optimism to once more.

I trained for months. It felt like a follow-up to all those training sessions I had performed for years. In my heart, it was the right thing to do; to get in touch with that side of me that I thought was lost forever. Multiple Sclerosis took a lot of me, but I was ready to strike back once again.

Changing my routine was not a big deal physically, but mentally it was. I felt a new sense of self-worth every single day. I needed that thrill, to strive for something more. MS was not an excuse anymore, my only concern was, “I need to be ready for the challenge ahead.”

Giovanni holding a medal

The crossing was simply stunning.  When thinking of all the open water swim competitions I’ve done, I can safely say that this was one of the most meaningful. To be in the middle of the bay, looking at the Golden Gate bridge in the distance, thinking, “I am so lucky to be here, this is even better than what I’d imagined.”

There’s nothing like standing up in the sand after an open water swim. Believe me when I say you’re still capable of achieving your goals.

In the grand scheme of things, this was only the beginning; I want to accomplish more. I am determined to show others that even with a chronic illness like MS, nothing can stop you. You might need to change course, but the destination remains the same. There’s no turning back.

— Giovanni P., Multiple Sclerosis

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