On May 15, 2009, Alli DeFrancesco was receiving her first dose of chemotherapy instead of walking with her NYU graduating class. That day, her NYU swim coach, Lauren Beam, who had been diagnosed herself with stage 4 colon cancer a month prior, told her, “Don’t hang onto what the doctors tell you … Whatever you do, stay positive.” Nearly two and a half years later, after losing Beam to the cancer, DeFrancesco was on a flight back to San Diego, returning from Beam’s funeral, when she felt an overpowering need to do something positive and inspiring. On that plane, she decided to swim the English Channel–for Beam, for herself, and for the organization First Descents.
DeFrancesco, who has been swimming competitively since age 10, has now been in remission for two and a half years. Her training is well underway, with the voice of Beam’s encouragement in her head every morning, telling her to “cut the crap” and get out there.
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