GREENWICH, Conn. – A little more than a year after doctors declared her cancer-free, Brooke Lorenz dove into Long Island Sound on Saturday for the sixth annual Greenwich-Stamford Swim Across America fundraiser. The Greenwich High graduate was participating for the fourth time but just the second as a cancer survivor.
Though she said she was “an emotional wreck” at last year’s event, time has allowed her to view her treatment through more mature eyes.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my year in treatment and all the hardships — and the good that came of it,” Lorenz said. “I’m just so glad I could pay it forward. All these little events are the reason that I’m alive and that there was a treatment to cure me.”
Lorenz, a former Greenwich High varsity swimmer and water polo player, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma just weeks before she was about to start her freshman year at the University of Colorado. Instead of heading off to school, she went through what she called 12 rounds of “pretty harsh” chemotherapy.
Lorenz, 19, was determined to stay positive throughout her treatments and attributes that in part to her recovery. As soon as she knew she was through the woods, Lorenz began to think of ways to give back to other cancer patients.
Having participated in Swim Across America the two years leading up to her diagnosis, she formed a team to raise money. Soon, “Team CHEMhOes” was born.
“My sister and I have a very dry sense of humor,” she said, explaining the team name. “To get us through the chemo treatments we would joke about funny things. And that’s what the CHEMhOes represent — we take the cause very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves very seriously.”
Lorenz’s high school teammate, Nicole Bellamy, quickly answered the call to help the cause. After Lorenz made her feel welcome on the swim team as a freshman, Bellamy was ready to do whatever it took to support the CHEMhOes.
“The team name kind of explains who Brooke is. This horrible thing happened to her and her attitude through it was amazing,” Bellamy said. “It was so emotional standing on the beach with her the first time. I never really thought we could make a difference, but with the money we raised I could really see we could.”
In two years, Team CHEMhOes has raised more than $60,000 for cancer research. The team collected $32,100 for this year’s event, the second highest of any team.
“The support for our team has just been unbelievable, and we’ve been able to raise insane amounts of money,” Lorenz said. “Every year we can keep this ball rolling and make huge strides toward something important that just started out with 20 teenagers.”
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