Spring 2019

Motivated marathon swimming

Open-water swimmer traverses the globe, raising money for breast cancer research at the Masonic Cancer Center


Six weeks before she was set to swim across the English Channel for the first time, Michelle Macy learned that her mother, Kathleen, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The news was devastating. But Macy used the diagnosis as inspiration. “I realized my swimming could be a powerful platform to raise money and awareness for breast cancer,” Macy says.

Grateful for the care her mother received at what’s now known as University of Minnesota Health, Macy established MacySwim, an organization dedicated to advancing cure-focused breast cancer research at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

Marathon swimmer Michelle Macy

“My mom is a part of my journey as a marathon swimmer, and the Masonic Cancer Center is a part of her journey,” she says.

After swimming the 21-mile stretch between England and France, Macy set two more goals: to complete six other open-water swims around the globe—together known as the Oceans Seven—and to raise $50,000 for cancer research.

In the decade since she initially traversed the English Channel, she has become the first American to successfully complete the Oceans Seven, and she surpassed her fundraising goal. Earlier this year, Macy was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

And she’s not done yet. Although Kathleen passed away from a heart condition in the years following her cancer treatment, Michelle Macy plans to continue swimming and fundraising. When the waters get rough, she knows she can call on her mother’s memory for strength.

“There are tough times in the water where I’m like, ‘Am I really doing this again?’” Macy says. “But then I think, ‘I’m swimming for breast cancer research. I’m swimming to make a small difference in this world. I’m swimming for people like my mom.’”