Not long after giving birth to triplets -- two girls and one boy -- Susie Jamharian found out that she had Multiple Sclerosis.
"When my fingertips were getting numb -- when I first noticed it -- I thought I was changing too many diapers,” she said.
Jamharian grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to San Diego, and then settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband. Diagnosed with MS in 2004, she has taken to the pool to stay fit.
"I feel so much stronger in the water and feel so much better once I finish my laps," Jamharian said. "Also, I don’t feel as many aches and pains in the water as I do on land."
Wanting to contribute toward an organization that fights MS, Jamharian came across Swim MS, which is run through the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.
MSAA started Swim for MS in 2008 to raise research funds while promoting athletic activity for people afflicted with the disease. Participants challenge themselves to individual swimming goals and secure donations from friends and family for their efforts.
Those who swim can set their own schedules and goals for swimming a certain number of laps. Swim for MS participants have also hosted pool parties, cannonball jumping contests and synchronized swimming events for the cause.
Some teams have also challenged themselves to group swimming events for MSAA fundraising.
Jamharian stuck with the individual lap swimming initiative, setting a goal of 1,000 laps to complete in one month.
"For several years, I’ve been wanting to do something for MS to raise money, but I was afraid I might get overheated by doing a bike ride or whatnot," she said. “But then I switched medications, and for some weird reason I got this email talking about a swim fundraiser. And I felt very apprehensive about doing it because I was like 'who’s going to support me?'"
A friend helped Jamharian get started, and the swimmer sent out an email to her friends in mid-March. Jamharian began the swimming commitment in April and finished her laps in 12 days, far outpacing her original plan. She raised $3,600 along the way. The donors' generosity surprised Jamharian, helping her overcome the initial concern that few people would support her. Acquaintances that she didn't even ask donated to the cause after hearing about it from mutual friends.
"You kind of don't want to do something like this because you don't think you’re going to get the support, but you’d just be amazed,” she said.
Though she once temporarily lost vision in her left eye and still experiences the numbness in her fingertips, Jamharian considers her MS mild and does not like to address it around her husband and three kids, who are now 13. But her efforts have helped raise money and awareness for people whom the disease has relegated to wheelchairs and crutches.