View Full Version : One lung for a swimmer

October 29th, 2002, 09:46 AM
I had my left lung removed last December because of cancer. I was never a smoker or was exposed to second hand smoke. I have never heard of a competitive swimmer that has one lung. Is there anyone out there like that? If so, can I ever compete again if I really work at it. I am having quite a time now trying to swim distance without stopping. Need some advice. Want to conquer this!!!

October 29th, 2002, 11:47 AM
I can't recall off hand any swimmers, but I do recall once reading a story of an Olympic runner who had only one lung. I don't remember his name but recall in the article discussing how one lung can compensate and over time through training produce the same amount of necessary functioning as a person with two lungs. If I recall correctly, I think the one lung actually grows in capacity over time to compensate. This may not be of much help, but I do remember at least one story of an athlete that overcame the situation.

Good luck! If you are conquering cancer, you can conquer anything! I have a close family member with terminal cancer and the situation provides me with enormous encouragement to set my sights on achieving my goals in life and get the most out of every day we have.

If you haven't read Lance Armstrong's book "It's not about the bike", it is quite a good read, especially for an athlete that overcame an illness. It gives great perspective on why an athlete does what they do and how it's much more about the journey vs. winning a medal. I just returned after competing in the World Masters Games in Melbourne, Australia where there were 1700 swimmers from 84 countries. It was just great working towards the goal of competing side by side with many amazing people. It didn't matter to me if I was near the top with my finishes.

jim thornton
October 29th, 2002, 03:09 PM
I wrote an article on athletic performance several years back and asked one of my sources if there's anything you can do to increase lung volume (i.e., vital capacity.) He told me there really isn't, but that it's unnecessary to do this anyhow. One lung alone is more than sufficient to get all the oxygen you need into your system. What distinguishes elite athletes is the ability their muscles to extract and use oxygen from the blood.

The one-lunged Olympian is a good example of this. You will probably have to adapt somewhat to your situation, but please do not consider it to be severely limiting! Good luck.

Harry J Hemmerle
October 31st, 2002, 08:30 AM
Hello There:

I had my left lung removed in January, '02. I DID smoke for 30 years so I deserve it.

I went back into training in April (hampered by Chemo) and competed in the PA Senior Games in June. I was not able to complete the 100 yard events (not enough lung capacity) but I did complete all of the 50 yard events in respectable but slower times. I lost a 50 fly ice cream cone bet to my buddy by.01 seconds. In August I competed in the Keystone games in all 50 yard events and the 100 free. I was able to medal in all five events.

I am swimming slower and, of a necessity, shorter events. It is my plan to start practicing the longer freestyle events because of the more relaxed pace. This will be difficult since I have always been a sprinter and have no idea how to pace myself.

There is a place for us one-lungers in swimming. We just have to find it.