Swimming Across the Strait of Messina…with SMM: an Inspiring Story

A close Italian friend of mine has borderline MGUS-SMM. With every test, her markers go a bit up, then a bit down, then a bit up. It has been this way for years: she was diagnosed with MGUS when she was in her early 20s, and she is now in her early 50s. She and I have a completely different approach. I want to know every little detail about MGUS, SMM and MM. She has never wanted to know and still doesn’t want to know. And I am beginning to think that she was right, in the sense that she has managed to avoid, in her own way, all the stress that accompanies a diagnosis like this one. She knows, of course, that it is important to have blood tests done every six months, and she follows her hematologist’s advice. But that’s it. She has never had any conventional treatment for her MGUS, nor has she followed any alternative treatments. And she has done, and is doing, very well.

My friend is a competition-level swimmer. She belongs to a team, consisting of swimmers her age who travel all around Europe participating in competitions, obviously not at the Olympic level, but still serious stuff. I am writing about her today because a couple of weeks ago she travelled to Southern Italy, where she and other 28 swimmers from all over Italy (also one German and a couple of French swimmers) participated in an extraordinary non-competitive swim across the Strait of Messina, which is a ribbon of water (3.3 kilometers, slightly more than 2 miles, in its narrowest point) between Sicily and Calabria. This is not an easy swim: the currents are very strong and treacherous. Nor is it a simple event to organize: all sorts of permits must be obtained in order for swimmers to make this crossing. The usual heavy ship traffic through the Strait must be stopped, for instance, and each swimmer must have a boat following her/him. And so on. Of course, these rules exist for the safety of the swimmers. And at the end there are no prizes, no, not even one little award. The swimmers participate in this competition just for the fun of it.

Well, I am happy and proud to report that my friend swam across the Strait in less than one hour (apparently and luckily, that particular day the currents were not so strong) and arrived first in her group. Yesterday, while we were playing cards with another close friend of ours, she told us about the crossing, how absolutely amazing it had been. The water was, or seemed!, crystal clear, the day was perfect, one of her team members saw a swordfish, and she never panicked, even though she had never attempted anything this dangerous. 29 people swimming across the narrow channel that divides Sicily from mainland Italy: what a spectacle that must have been. I am sorry I was not able to be there!

Yesterday I asked her (jokingly, of course): “So, what’s next, the Atlantic?” Her reply: “What’s to stop me?” What, indeed? 🙂


  1. My Immunoglobulin M is 405 (43-279)
    Immunoglobulin M, S kappa Monoclonal and Lambda Monoclonal IFE Serum – detected.
    STEP Monoclonal Protein is 0.3.
    Kappa Qnt Free light chains is 2.27.
    Kappa Lambda free L/C ratio is 1.28
    Lambda QNT free ligt chains is 1.78.

    1. Wondering what my M-spike is?
      I have had Mgus for three years.……. All of my other tests are normal…urine, bone xrays, abdomin etc. I have not had Bone marrow biopsy. I feel very good.

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