Carly Miller grew up watching her mother, Emily, fight breast and ovarian cancer for almost 15 years. Emily passed away in 2005 and a few years later, Carly received her genetic test result of a BRCA2 mutation that confirmed suspicions she had a genetic predisposition to cancer, too. At that time, Carly was in a dark place mourning her mother’s death and wasn’t ready to make decisions regarding this discovery. In 2016, Carly scheduled her prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction and as her surgery approached, she reached out to some organizations for support and found FORCE in the process. Then in 2017, she had a full hysterectomy.
After having her own wonderful experience with a FORCE volunteer following her mastectomy, Carly decided to volunteer and help other women on a similar journey navigate their own process. She has been supporting individuals around the country as an Outreach Leader in Los Angeles as well as a Peer Navigator since 2016. This experience has helped her to see this journey as bringing her around full circle to honor her mom.
Her mom enjoyed swimming the circumferences of lakes growing up in Connecticut, later doing a lot of pool swimming, including when she was pregnant with her Carly. Stuart, Carly’s father is an avid swimmer, swimming 1-2 miles every day of his adult life, which he still does to this day.
Her parents passed on their love of swimming to Carly shaping her future swim goals! Growing up, Carly swam as an outlet to get through tough times, especially when her mom was sick. She was never the greatest swimmer and always had to work really hard just to be mediocre. She definitely wasn’t a stand out speed-wise. But where she did stand out was her work ethic and her coach appreciated that. After high school, Carly swam only sporadically for the following 15 years but got back into the sport in 2015 as a means to regain her health, mentally and physically, following the devastation of losing her mom.
Since the sport had become such a huge part of her life again, Carly was terrified that having a prophylactic mastectomy would change her as a swimmer, but she knew it was something she had to do, for her and her husband. Due to skin complications, she was out of the water much longer than doctors predicted. She had a lot of time to think and found something was drawing her to the ocean. Almost 2 years to the day after her first 1-mile ocean swim, on September 14, 2018, Carly swam 12.2 miles from Anacapa Island in the Santa Barbara Channel to Oxnard, CA. This year, on September 15-16, Carly swam more than 20 miles over 12 hours and 47 minutes through the night from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes, Calfornia, becoming one of less than 600 people in history to complete this swim. In August of 2020, she plans to swim the 21.5-mile length of Lake Tahoe to complete the California Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, in tribute and dedication to Emily.
Throughout her swims over the last 3 years, which have also included several 1st place age-group finishes in local races, an Escape from Alcatraz, a swim around Lido Key, FL and countless epic training swims, despite the sheer expense of these events, Carly has been able to raise nearly $9,000 for FORCE. In 2019 alone, she was able to surpass her $5,000 goal and raise more than ever before. She is very proud of her fundraising and volunteer efforts, as well as her swims, as she does it all in honor of mom.
If you would like to keep up with Carly’s swimming adventures, follow her on Instagram @cfmiller8.