An emotional Dayna McKay hugs supporters following her 2012 swim from Lax Kw'alaams to Prince Rupert.

An emotional Dayna McKay hugs supporters following her 2012 swim from Lax Kw'alaams to Prince Rupert.

McKay returning to the sea in hopes of a cure for cancer

Dayna McKay is preparing for the second leg of Into the Sea-Cancer Free The Journey Home this June.

Dayna McKay is preparing for the second leg of Into the Sea-Cancer Free The Journey Home this June, when she will swim from Prince Rupert to Lax Kw’alaams to raise awareness and funds in hopes of finding a cure for cancer.

This year will be the 43-year-old’s second time doing the 60 kilometre swim, first completing the swim from Lax Kw’alaams to Prince Rupert last year in honour of her uncle.

McKay said she was heart-broken when she found out her uncle, Billy Sampson, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009. McKay and Sampson are extremely close, with McKay saying she thinks of her uncle as her brother.

“I didn’t know what to say. I wished I could do something or say something to take it away. I wanted him to focus on something other than cancer,” McKay said.

McKay decided on doing a swimming event because she was unaware of one of this magnitude being used to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

Last year McKay ended up leaving 20 minutes early because she was anxious to start the journey. Within a few hours, McKay realized the currents were much strong than she had expected.

Last year, McKay swam nearly the whole 19.5 hours it took her to swim from Lax Kw’alaams to Prince Rupert, only stopping for nutrient breaks. McKay said stopping for five minute breaks felt long because she just wanted to keep going and get to Prince Rupert on the same day as Aboriginal Day.

Although she didn’t arrive at six p.m. as she had planned, McKay was still greeted by more than 1,000 supporters and representatives from a number of nations, tribes and communities from around the Northwest when she was pulled out of the water just before 11 p.m. last June 21.

“I did it all for my uncle… If I could swim around the world to take his cancer away, I would in a heart beat,” McKay said.

McKay said she expects her arrival at Lax Kw’alaams to be more emotional than last year’s arrival to Prince Rupert because she will be returning home to all of the people who have supported her through her efforts.

McKay is already training for The Journey Home, spending approximately six hours a day swimming, jogging and weight lifting around her work schedule.

After completing this year’s swim, McKay will have swam a 120 kilometre round trip, bringing her one step closer to her goal of helping find a cure for all cancer and raising as much awareness as she can along the way. McKay hopes to complete The Journey Home in under 19 hours, beating the time of last year’s swim.

McKay will be leaving Prince Rupert on Friday, June 28 from the Lightering Dock at approximately six p.m. after a send-off ceremony, and arriving on Rose Island in Lax Kw’alaams around one p.m.

The Into the Sea Cancer Free team is asking for financial sponsorship, as well as any in kind donations that will be used to make this journey possible. Anyone interested in making a donation is asked to check out www.intotheseacancerfree.com or follow the swim on Facebook.

Funds raised through McKay’s swims are donated to the Richard Wesley Memorial group, as well as the BC Cancer Foundation.