UPDATE from Braulio Fonseca as of August 28, 2019:
“I said I wanted to suffer – To do something I may not be able to complete. It took some time for me to realize this but If suffering is what you seek you must never wane in the wake of the suck.” BFONCK
July 27th, 2019 – The San Francisco air was cool and matched the water temperature of the bay…56 degrees. Fog loomed and the sky was a muted grey. At approximately 9:30 am PST, oﬀ the shore of the infamous prison Alcatraz, I dove from the side of a tour boat that was carrying 850 swimmers and entered the bay without a wetsuit, my body covered in the names of 150 Cancer Warriors…this was my Tribute. I paddled idly for 15 minutes waiting for the entirety of competitors to enter the water.
As time ticked on my body temperature began to drop and by the time the race had begun, I was already cold to the core, teeth chattering, body quivering. A horn sounded signaling the start and a thunderous mob of nervous and excited athletes exploded forward toward the shores of San Fran. Bodies were everywhere and limbs and water seem to be ﬂung about like shrapnel. Each swim stroke forward was cut short due to a body in the front, side, and rear, each breath to the side was obstructed by another swimmer’s splash or arm entering the water near my face.
For a moment a female swimmer was directly to my side and we were in perfect unison – stroke for stroke, breath for breath. I remember watching her and feeling a moment of ease and thought to myself I can stay with this and I felt a sense of comfortability being beside her. A smile showed itself on my face and I felt conﬁdent. It was exactly at this moment of comfort that a shocking jolt brought me back to an icy, chaotic reality. A hand grabbed my right ankle and jerked me back down into the water in mid breath, mid stroke. The fear alone was enough to put my body in a new sense of angst. When I breached the surface my counterpart, whom I had felt my comfort was lost in the progressive wall of splashing water thrust by the feet of 850 swimmers kicking in a fury.
I had to ﬁnd a new mantra and a new way for me to stay “in the zone” so one by one I began to say the warriors’ names on my back. I remembered those who had passed away after their battles and those who had survived. I thought of the messages I had received over the past few months and the stories people had shared with me as they gave me the names of those they loved. Name by name, soul by soul, stroke by stroke I continued. “Find the joy.” I said to myself over and over trying to forget the pain.
As I neared the mile mark of the 1.5-mile swim I noticed a change in my awareness and thoughts. My vision began to alter and with each breath, as I looked out at the bay, my world began to violently swirl to blur. I couldn’t feel my arms as the dug into the sea and my legs seemed to swell and anchor me backwards. I barely had enough time in this moment to even realize what was happening – I was going hypothermic and my body was going into shock. In a delirious state I swam forward until a man who was completely lost in the water cut in front of me forcing me to stop in my tracks so as not to collide. It was this action that set oﬀ a chain of events that would prove crippling.
My abdomen began to contract, and my air was constricted. The sound that came from mouth was a deafening moan of pain and anguish. From my toes to my head my body constricted inward. It was as if I was giving birth. I looked out into the mess of water, bodies and kayaks and it all began to vanish before my eyes and in that, the ﬁnal act of my will was the raising of my right arm toward the east.
My body temperature was 79 degrees when I was pulled from the San Francisco Bay fully hypothermic. My eyes pierced shut in pain, my mouth foaming and slurring as my face trembled uncontrollably. My body convulsing and contracting in hysteria. The paramedics later said that it was everything I could do to murmur my own name one time during the wailing and wallowing of shock.
My eyes didn’t open again until I was in the ER and being warmed by a plastic suit ﬁlled with hot air and as they did tears ﬁlled them and overﬂowed down my cheeks in complete and utter sadness. I had failed I thought, I had let down not only myself but 100s of amazing human beings and souls who deserved better than what I had given them. I was distraught and humiliated. My immediate reaction was that it would have been better to die in the water than to be where I was now…in a hospital …defeated.
It took nearly a month for me to wrap my head around that day, that race, that moment I raised my hand for help. Many nights staring out into the stars asking for the reason, the answer, and the direction in which I should turn. The abundance of support ﬁlled my heart with love and allowed me to see just how powerful this event was to so many people. Their loved ones were in living action as they swam with me across the bay, and what better way to be honored. And it was in that I found my purpose and my mission.
I said I wanted to suﬀer, to do something I might not be able to complete yet my head lowered as I accomplished exactly what I had set out to do…suﬀer as a way to pay tribute to the suﬀering. I see now that a gold medal or ﬁrst place ﬁnish may not have served me as well as the reality I now understand. If suﬀering is what I seek than I cannot wane in the wake of the suck.
The very instant I was released from the hospital I immediately signed up for next year’s Alcatraz swim, the NON-WETSUIT category again. I will swim this race every year for the rest of my life and while I learned valuable lessons from this ﬁrst attempt I will not be dismayed if every year I am pulled from the water in pain. I am committed to the suﬀering and what better way to suﬀer than to fail and keep going.
My goal is to ﬁnd other cancer survivors like me to join me in this cause so that each year there will be more and more warriors being remembered, honored and kept alive. This is my way to die living.
Aug 28th, 2019
Original post below:
Do you recognize this guy? Meet Braulio Fonseca.
We recall the days of this former FHS swimmer who graced our pool with his skills for many swim meets. Now, in just a few weeks, Braulio is taking on a way BIGGER feat. He will be swimming at Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim 2019!!
Words from Braulio:
“On July 27th I will attempt to swim from the infamous prison, Alcatraz, better known as “the Rock” to the San Francisco mainland…without a wetsuit!
I am dedicating this swim to Kelly Klein, Michele Michelle Boyd DeJong, and anyone else who has passed away from cancer, left us unexpectedly, or has cancer now. This is my way to pay homage to my own two personal battles with cancer as well as keep the spirit alive of those who suffered and or are suffering now.
I truly believe that I cannot complete this race without them. I swim for those who can’t and their spirit will take me across successfully.
Please feel free to send me names to add to my body. I will be taking names until the second week of July. Please share this with anyone you think would want to be a part.
Have a name of a friend or loved one that has fought cancer that you would like Braulio to write on his body during his swim? Click or tap here to email Matt and let him know you want a name added! We will make sure to get it to Braulio.
We are so proud of you and your journey, Braulio! You have our support now and always. Wishing you all the best on the 27th – FHF is cheering you on!