Jack (left) and Bill (right)

Cancer has always been around in my life. It’s a nasty, cruel disease. Honestly, I hate cancer more than anything. While my sister and niece are both survivors, my friend Jack wasn’t as lucky.

Jack and I met many years ago as our wives had met a few months earlier through the PTA. We had kids that were the same age, and lived down the street from each other and our families became very close. He was quite the guy – a state trooper, great friend, an outstanding father and husband and all-around good person. He was a mentor to me: someone I could really count on.

Needless to say, it was something of a shock when Jack was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His diagnosis was a big deal; he was only given a few years because the cancer had spread. Despite the grim prognosis, he impressed everyone we knew with his amazing attitude and hard work to keep the cancer at bay. He even inspired me to run a marathon with him. Through his connections he was able to get us in the NYC Marathon, though neither of us were technically fast enough to qualify. 

Last year through a friend I had learned about Gills for Gilda. I was impressed with the great things about Gilda’s Club and the free support they give to families facing cancer. I didn’t hesitate to sign up. Jack’s wife, Margaret wanted in as well and we trained and swam together to honor Jack. 

Besides: if swimming six miles can help people like Jack deal with cancer, you can count me in.

I’m no stranger to swimming. I have been a swimmer since 1974, when I spent summer days in my neighborhood pool. I can’t remember a time I didn’t love it, especially swimming in open water. But over the years I had no idea that I would complete a six-mile ultra-swim to honor a friend.

And now I am swimming again in Jack’s memory.

In the end, Jack lived a few more years than the doctors expected. He died in February. Because of him, I am swimming across Lake Mendota again. I want to honor Jack’s energy and attitude. I swim because he meant the world to me and so many other people. I swim to support Gilda’s Club so that no one has to face this awful illness alone.

You can support Bill’s efforts by clicking here to donate to Gills for Gilda’s.