NORFOLK, Mass. (AP) — When Patricia Saint Aubin’s best friend was diagnosed with colon cancer, she decided to do something about it by combining her passion for swimming with her desire to raise money for cancer research.
The Norfolk resident entered a program called Swim Across America, which she compared to a national version of the Pan Mass Challenge, except it involves swimming, rather than bike riding.
Then, her brother was diagnosed with brain cancer, so she decided to keep up the work.
Now she estimates she has raised $30,000 over the past several years, including $9,700 last month.
Every year, she said, she increases the amount she is able to raise.
Saint Aubin, 55, has been swimming since she was 5 and became competitive when she was 6.
“I love the way swimming makes me feel. It’s like exercising without feeling like you’re exercising,” she said.
She competes in a master’s division for long-distance swimmers, with women age 55 to 59. A member of the Republican State Committee, Saint Aubin travels to a meet in a different city each year for the national championships.
This past spring, she was in Indianapolis, where she placed in the Top 10 in the 1,650-yard free style and 200-yard backstroke events.
The 1,650-yard event is just short of a mile, and involves swimming 33 laps in the pool.
The Norfolk resident also likes competing in the 500-yard freestyle at times.
Last month, she moved on to Swim Across America, which involves a mile swim in open water.
This year it took place off Nantasket Beach in Hull. The water was so choppy, however, with 8- to 10-foot swells, that the Coast Guard insisted the swim be shorted to a half-mile.
More than 100 swimmers took part, and Saint Aubin was one of the top three fundraisers.
The day before, other swimmers competed in a 22-mile relay. In total, the swimmers raised $230,000 over the two days.
The money raised by the swimmers went to the Dana Faber Institute for cancer research.
Saint Aubin, who trains at local YMCA pools, said she still loves her sport after all these years, and has no intention of slowing down.
“I’ll probably do this forever,” she said.
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