When doctors declared Allison DeFrancesco in remission from cancer at the age of 21, they told her to â€œYouâ€™re done (with treatment.) Go be normal.â€
â€œI thought, â€˜What does that mean?â€™â€ said DeFrancesco, who was first diagnosed with Hodgkinâ€™s lymphoma as a collegiate swimmer at New York University. She spent a couple years in treatment, finally receiving a bone marrow transplant. The process robbed her of her swimming season, graduation and left her tired and discouraged.
As she struggled to get back on her feet post-cancer, she was hit with another blow â€” her coach and mentor, Lauren Beam, died of colon cancer in 2011. She wanted to do something in memory of Beam, something that would keep her from defining herself as a â€œcancer survivorâ€ and nothing else.
â€œWhy not swim the English Channel?â€ she thought.