02.14.20 – Plans

Journal entry by Vicki Bunke 

During Grace’s first hospitalization for her cancer treatment in August 2014, I remember standing in the hallway outside of her room talking to my friend Andrea. During this conversation, I shared with Andrea all of my plans. How I planned to get our family through Grace’s treatment. How I planned to manage my professional work during Grace’s treatment. How I planned to help Grace and Caroline and our family keep a normal schedule despite Grace’s treatments and illness. How I planned to do this, that, and the other. I was full of plans. I also shared with her how what seemed like a dozen different services and groups had stopped by Grace’s room with information that day. I recall laughing as I borrowed a popular phrase from The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise as I said to Andrea, “I’m not here to make friends.”

I had plans. But God had other plans.

In August 2014, my plans certainly had no room or line item for an unlikely future friendship that I personally treasure with Grace’s treating oncologist.

I had plans. But God had other plans.

In August 2014, my plans were devoid of open water charity swims, 5 AM swim practices, and a Swim Across America Tour in which I would travel to 14 different cities to swim in lakes and oceans and rivers to raise money to find better treatments for a disease that ended my child’s life.

I had plans. But God had other plans.

In August 2014, my plans lacked any mention of the fact that Grace’s oncologist would join me in 7 of the 14 open water Swim Across America events because that is just the type of person and friend she is.

I had plans. But God had other plans.

I continue to remind myself that God’s plans are always better than mine. Believe me, I know there are situations in life when it is difficult to trust and follow His direction and plans. But as Proverbs 16:9 tells us, ‘We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.’

I will forever be thankful that our steps and God’s plan led us to Dr. Karen Wasilewski, Grace’s former oncologist and my friend, swimming partner, and soon to be Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour companion.

I have already shared with you why I swim. But why does Dr. Wasilewski swim? I’ll let her tell you why:

Many of you know why I started swimming…GRACE BUNKE.

In 2017, Grace swam 1 mile at the Open Water Atlanta Swim for Swim Across America, despite having metastatic osteosarcoma in her spine and lungs. Following her swim she shared with us why she swam. Following her speech I gave her a huge hug and was forever inspired by the words she spoke.

In 2018 Grace’s mother and my friend, Vicki, swam a mile in Lake Lanier along with Grace’s sister (Caroline), friends, and over 1000 other swimmers while Grace looked down on us from heaven and a red umbrella guided us along the way. We swam for hope, and to honor Grace, and to fulfill her wish to become the top national fundraiser. We finished (in about double the time it took Grace the prior year) and Grace was, in fact, the top national fundraiser!

In 2019 a mile was not enough. Grace had not wanted to swim the 1 mile event the year she died…but the 5K. So, Vicki convinced me to do what we absolutely needed to do – swim the 5K. Why? Because “Hope has no finish line.” And although hope has no finish line – the course at Lake Lanier does…and we were able to cross the line together – Vicki, Caroline, and some of Grace’s closet friends.

In 2020, Vicki had a calling – to swim 14 Swim Across America swims in honor of Grace – who died at age 14….after swimming in 14 competitive swim meets. And that is exactly what she is going to do. I will be joining my swim buddy for half of those this year in Tampa; Charleston; Larchmont; Denver; Charlotte; Baltimore; and of course…Atlanta!


I swim because Swim Across America is a first-rate philanthropic organization, run by goodhearted and smart people, that gives back locally to fund promising cancer research where funding gaps exist.

I swim to thank Swim Across America and continue the momentum for the over $2.25 million dollars they have donated to a place near and dear to both my heart and that of Grace, The Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

I swim to honor all of my patients – those who continue to inspire us here on earth, and those who inspire us through their memory and legacy.

But what really keeps me getting up at 4:15am and into the pool at 5am three times a week and traveling to 7 places across the country?

I swim, to not only honor and remember Grace, but to spend time with and support my friend, Vicki – a friendship that is a testament to the good that can come from bad; and the beauty that can come from tragedy. It is a testament of HOPE.


We encourage you to join us as we literally Swim Across America on ‘The Amazing Grace Tour!’

The Amazing Grace Tour

‘Authors don’t always choose their books. Their path, and more often their pain, do the picking.’ (Beth Moore)

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