ALEXANDRIA, VA–When Engie Mokhtar (47) joined Alexandria Masters Swimming (AMS) in June 2014, the only thing anyone knew about her history with cancer was her “KICKCNR” license plate. Mokhtar had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and after intense treatment was cancer-free by October 2012. She joined Alexandria Masters as a way to get back into shape and to get back to a sport she had loved as a child.
She quickly became a cherished member of the squad. Teammate Kathy Bowdring recalls, “When I first met Engie she was so warm and welcoming. Full of life and fun.” Another teammate, Jim Coakley, takes inspiration from Engie. “Sometimes, I stumble across the ultimate excuse for skipping practice, a true shirker’s masterpiece. Then I think about Engie slipping into her lane without a whimper, always steady, happy and resolute. No matter how solid the excuse, the Engie factor kicks in and I am off to the pool.”
While open about her experience fighting breast cancer, Engie never focused on it. For her, it was a thing of the past. “I really thought I was cured after four years of clear scans and diligently taking my medications. I was moving on with my life.” But then on April 7, 2015 the unthinkable happened. Engie had a seizure which led to the discovery that her cancer was back and had metastasized to her brain. While Engie underwent immediate surgery to remove the tumor, her devastated teammates wanted somehow to help.
Engie’s longtime friend, Michelle Iuli, suggested holding a swimathon to help Engie pay her mounting medical bills. Engie’s teammates embraced the idea, but Engie didn’t want the proceeds. Rather, she wanted the proceeds to go to charity to help others in her condition. Thus, in the summer of 2015 the first Swim for Engie Against Breast Cancer was launched and was repeated in 2016. Each year, some 35 swimmers raised approximately $5,000 on behalf of Inova’s Schar Cancer Institute.
This year as in 2016, AMS is partnering with Alexandria West Rotary (of which Engie and her mom, Nadia, are both active members) to host the third Swim for Engie fundraiser. The beneficiary will be the Annapolis-based nonprofit Metavivor. Metavivor is an organization dedicated to funding research about and providing support for individuals fighting stage four metastatic breast cancer. Engie wants to support Metavivor because of its specific focus on stage four metastatic breast cancer. She hopes that the research Metavivor funds will someday soon lead to a cure for her and the many others in her shoes.
The swimathon will take place on August 26, 2018 from 8-10 am at Waynewood Pool (1027 Dalebrook Drive, Alexandria, VA 22308). Participation is open to swimmers of all ages as long as they can do laps. There is a $10 cash fee to defray costs due the morning of the event.
To donate to the event or to register to swim go to: https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/swimforengie