The New England Masters member finished fourth and fifth in her two races Thursday
The first thought that went through Kysa Crusco’s mind when she heard she had invasive breast cancer in April 2019 wasn’t about her chances for living. Instead, the New England Masters Swim Club member cried and wondered whether she’d be able to swim again.
“Which maybe shouldn’t have been my first priority,” she says. “I was really concerned about not being able to swim well again. I was really concerned about having chemo and losing my hair, probably all trivial things in my doctor’s mind whose goal is just to keep me alive.”
Crusco, 45, underwent a full mastectomy in June 2019, took about a month off from swimming, swam for two weeks, and then competed at the 18th FINA World Masters Championships in South Korea. Her concerns about whether she’d swim again were squashed.
But Crusco’s journey to the U.S. Masters Swimming Short Course National Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she finished fourth in the 400 IM with a time of 5:54.29 and fifth in 500 freestyle with a time of 6:04.23 on Thursday, was challenging.
After regaining strength from her chemotherapy treatments, she underwent a hysterectomy and an oophorectomy and had permanent implants put in in December 2019.
Swimming was a constant for Crusco throughout her recovery. Her doctor recommended that she swim during her chemotherapy to reduce the side effects, and she returned to the pool as soon as she could after she recovered from her extensive surgeries.
Her Granite State Penguins workout group lanemates supported her throughout her recovery, encouraging her to keep coming to practice and bringing her food. One lanemate made a collage of about 100 pictures of Crusco’s chest while clothed.
“She was like, ‘They had a good run, but they’ve got to go,’” Crusco says. “It was pretty fun. I brought it in on the day of surgery and showed my doctor. She thought it was hilarious. My teammates were definitely my biggest source of support.”
Crusco sees her oncologist once every six months and is taking tamoxifen, a drug that blocks the effects of estrogen in breast tissue, for the next several years, but her prognosis is good.
Although her times haven’t been as fast as she would’ve liked, though they’re steadily improving since her return, Crusco is happy that she’s still swimming.
“It’s amazing just to be here with my teammates,” she says. “Being back at Nationals, it’s just so fun. We always have the best time.”
USMS Records Broken
- Heidi George, Unattached within Pacific LMSC: women’s 45-49 500 freestyle (5:03.45)
Note: All records are subject to change pending verification.