05.04.21 – Just Keep Breathing

Journal entry by Vicki Bunke 

Yesterday evening on the way to the gym with Caroline, we were listening to MercyMe’s new album. The first song on the album is called, “Inhale” and the last song is called, “Exhale.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Sounds so simple, right?

Yet sometimes, things in life happen that make the mere act of breathing seem impossible. Haven’t most of us had the air knocked out of us? Perhaps while playing a sport or rough housing with our siblings or friends when we were younger? It is the most terrifying second in our lives…not being able to catch our breath. In that moment of frightening disbelief, air and life become one and the same. We would do anything just to get our breath back again, to feel life one more time.

Many of us have also experienced moments when life knocks the wind out of us. Moments where you think this isn’t how life was supposed to go. Moments where our breathing changes without our consent.

I have experienced a few of those moments. I have also witnessed my children experience a few of those moments. Moments where I watched the blood drain from their faces as they processed the bad news that I had just shared with them. Bad news that literally took their breath away. Trust me, you don’t realize how important it is to ‘just breath’ until you feel as though you can’t.

Yes, ‘just breathing’ is important.

Grace’s own reactions to her various surgeries emphasized the very importance of breathing. I remember her being far more concerned about her multiple lung surgeries than her leg amputation surgery. Imagine that? Worrying more about a surgery that would take a fraction of the time and didn’t involve surgical instruments that looked like they belonged in a carpenter’s woodworking shop rather than in a sterile surgical room. Why would someone feel that way?

The way Grace explained it, “I can walk without a leg, but I can’t breathe without my lungs.”

Yes, breathing represents life.

Which would explain why one of Grace’s primary concerns related to her end of life experience was breathing. At one clinic appointment, she shared with myself and her nurse practitioner, “Please don’t let me feel like I can’t breathe.”

As I prepare to swim a mile in the Tampa Bay at the first of my 14 Swim Across America open water events that are part of The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour 2021, I can’t help but think of the importance of breathing. I am also reminded that we are all born into this life on an inhale, and we will die to this body on an exhale. And in between all of those inhales and exhales, life is available for each of us to experience to the fullest, if we so choose. We have a choice – we can choose to live contracted, turning to dying a little in each moment or we can choose to breathe and live deeply while extending and stretching ourselves to the very limit of living. The choice is ours.

With each inhale and exhale in the water on May 8th and with conscious intention on my part, I will do my best to make the right choice and “just keep breathing” as we make waves to fight cancer.

This video represents Why I Swim: 

Why I Swim – Amazing Grace Tour 2021

Inhale, exhale
It’s always darkest just before the light
Inhale and now exhale
Where there’s broken hope’s not far behind


Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour 2021 Update:

Thank you to everyone for all of your support. I am beyond excited to travel to Tampa later this week with friends. My mom will meet us there. Originally, Caroline was going to join us, but she has a soccer tournament this weekend. As I told Caroline who was disappointed that it’s humanly impossible to be in two places at one time, “Moms are only as happy as their saddest child.” Since she will be in her happy place (the soccer field) and I will be in Grace’s happy place (the water), this means that I will be very happy this Mother’s Day weekend. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Also, I wanted to let you know that in anticipation of this first open water event of The Amazing Grace Tour, Swim Across America has released an Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour t-shirt! You can’t have a tour without a tour t-shirt, right?

With a donation of $30, individuals are able to obtain a t-shirt.

Here is the link to the t-shirt page so that you can see what they look like:


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