Finding Inspiration Under the Sea

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Guest post by Becky Bohan Brown.

All of us need inspiration in our daily lives, when you’re an athlete it is even more important. At the 2012 Olympics, the world witnessed the fury of Olympic gold-medal swimmer Missy Franklin, who is also a resident of Colorado. She was able to channel inspiration from a town where she trained and a movie theater she had frequented in Aurora, Colo., the site of the Aurora movie theater tragedy.

I am no different. I am by no means an Olympic athlete, but in May of 2011  I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a new recreational sport. Similar to Missy, I was not alone in my endeavor. With my husband at my side and miles away from the states, I was channeling inspiration from a friend and breast cancer survivor, Cynthia Sturgeon.

My husband and I usually don’t exchange birthday gifts; however, he had a significant birthday coming up and I told him I’d buy him something. He thought on the proposition and told me he wanted to learn SCUBA diving. Not too surprising; since one of Brian’s best friends, Mark “Skippy” Sidwell, is a SCUBA instructor at DiVentures  in Omaha.

I discussed his gift with one of my best friends and it was decided I would take lessons with him. I’m not a swimmer. All the sports I’ve ever excelled in were on the land. This is really out of my comfort zone. As I thought, Brian took to SCUBA quickly. He was on the swim and dive team in junior high.

I had several mishaps in class at DiVentures. First time in the pool under water I flashed the wrong sign making everyone from class have to surface. It was so embarrassing – I now know the “okay” sign versus the “to surface” signal. Also, I had issues equalizing my ears and contracted a sinus infection. Something you’ll learn quickly is not to dive if having any allergy or sinus-related issues. I got medicine and bought vented earplugs from DiVentures, which I highly recommend. Finally, we passed our written test and would now be tested on our water disciplines. We were at the second to last discipline when I got a cramp in my leg. I surfaced with Skippy and he told me to hang out on the side of the pool. I worked the cramp out and in a solo check out session with Skippy passed.

I knew that night, I’d have to dig a little deeper to make it through my open water checkout dives in Montego Bay, Jamaica. So, I thought of Cynthia. She is the founder of Project Pink’d, Inc. The day before leaving for Jamaica, all of us board members met and signed papers committing to serve on the Project Pink’d, Inc. board of directors. Cynthia, our founder, was also present. Immediately after, I watched Cynthia’s video on YouTube of her tandem skydiving adventure to celebrate being four years of cancer-free living. Watching her hold up those four fingers, I was truly inspired by her enthusiasm and spirit.

While in Jamaica, Brian and I did a total of seven open water dives at different dive sites with the Ocheana crew of Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay. Of course as you could tell, my open water dives did not go without incident either. I had a myriad of mishaps: smacked my mask on a buoy, which caused a bloody nose; cut a finger on corral; and almost got bumped to the surface by a fellow diver. Brian only encountered a huge blister due to having to wear full healed fins that did not fit.

However, the worst incident came at our final check out dive. I jumped off the back of the boat and a huge wave caused my tank to hit me in the back of the head. Immediately, it started hurting and a bump appeared. I swam over to Brian and our Dive Master David Hewitt. David had seen the whole thing. He asked if I was okay. At that the moment I could’ve given up. But I didn’t. All I could think of was Cynthia barreling down 14,000 feet through the air to celebrate her being cancer-free. So, I sunk to 30 feet in the Montego Sea with a bump and massive headache and did it. When we surfaced, I took my Pink ribbon hat out of the bag and posed for a picture.

In the end we both passed our Scuba Schools International (SSI) and Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) open water and written tests. Brian and I love the sport so much we joined the Greater Omaha SCUBA Club and SCUBA right here in Omaha at area lakes.

Project Pink’d, Inc. and Cynthia were never too far from my thoughts while SCUBA diving in Jamaica with the Sandals Resorts crew. No one but Brian noticed on each dive I wore a pink ribbon on my wet suit. I dedicated my first-ever SCUBA dive open water experience to all the Project Pink’d survivors and co-survivors: “Support the fighters, admire the survivors, honor the taken, and never ever ever give up HOPE.”

So, this week Project Pink’d, Inc., will present EXPOSED: A Gift of Hope. If you’d like to find out about the excitement and enthusiasm of Project Pink’d, Inc., I invite you to attend the nonprofit’s upcoming premiere fundraising event at Omaha’s Downtown Hilton on Thursday, Aug. 22, or visit their website at http://site.projectpinkd.org/. Meet Cynthia in person and other calendar girls who are local breast cancer survivors, as well as family, friends and significant others who bare it all as “calendar girls” (PG-13 of course).

In 2011, Cynthia took to the air to celebrate four years breast cancer-free and I conquered the sea in 2012 to celebrate her five years. Keep diving!

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