Iris Rosenblatt is 80 and is fighting her third bout with cancer
Yet there she was at 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 12, wearing a pink cap, goggles and a blue swimsuit as she swam laps slowly but surely at the pool in the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center in Mount Washington.
"This is my last year," Rosenblatt swore.
"You said that last year too," said Kelly Keane, publicist for Swim Across America, an organization that raises money for cancer research.
Rosenblatt, of Cross Keys, a retired attorney, plans to swim a mile at the pool Sept. 18 — about 30 laps, she said — on behalf of Swim Across America. As many as 150 people, including a team of faculty from Gilman School, will do the same in a special one-mile "pool swim" at Meadowbrook.
Swim Across America is also holding an "open water swim" starting from the from the Waltjen-Shedlick Farm on the Magothy River in Pasadena, in Anne Arundel County, where they take part in either the one-mile or the three-mile course, Keane said.
Last year's Swim Across America events in the region raised a combined $465,000, Keane said.
All money raised benefits the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Rosenblatt is a patient.
Swimming in the background was Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, honorary chairman of this year's Swim Across America events at Meadowbrook and in Pasadena, Md. Meadowbrook, where Phelps trains, is donating the use of the pool for the event and is offering a free 16-week training program for participants, Keane said.
The "pool swim" at Meadowbrook is a one-mile event. Swimmers participating in the open water event will start from the Waltjen-Shedlick Farm on the Magothy River in Pasadena, Maryland and will be able to take part in either the one or three mile course.
No one could blame Rosenblatt for taking it easy in her twilight years, especially after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lung cancer — the result of smoking, she admitted sorrowfully.
"They couldn't get it all," she said. "They're trying to keep it from spreading."
She has emphysema, too.
But Rosenblatt, a regular at Meadowbrook for nearly 20 years, been swimming six mornings a week, taking only Sundays off, as she prepares for her big swim.
"I breathe better in the water than I do on land," she said.
The divorced mother of three, who has lived in Cross Keys since 1976, has amassed $1,245 in pledges this year from friends, family members and supporters, many of them at Meadowbrook.
"I really love all the people here," she said. "It's like having a second family."
"I'm giving $80 for Iris at 80," said Rose Bloomberg, of Guilford, who has been swimming regularly at Meadowbrook for the past three years.
Another regular, Marian Nash of Pinehurst in north Homeland, gave Rosenblatt a thumbs up as she passed by. Nash is amazed that Rosenblatt has been coming to the pool even In the middle of cancer therapy.
"She's been through hair loss and she'd come," Nash said.
Rosenblatt prefers to swim, if not for her life, then for the lives of others she hopes will benefit in future years from research to cure cancer.
"It's my pleasure," she said. "I wish I could do more. I wish I had the talent to cure it."
To donate, or for more information, go to Rosenblatt's personal page on the Swim Across America website, http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/PoolSwim/Baltimore?px=1091552&pg=personal&fr_id=1200. Al donations are tax-deductible, the site states.