Her multiple sclerosis stops Figtree grandmother of nine Robyn Vromans from swimming.
But the 66-year-old was able to learn to play the saxophone thanks largely to a grant from the annual MS 24 hour Mega Swim, which will be held again this year at Wollongong University pool on March 16-17.
Mrs Vromans received a grant for 12 months worth of saxophone lessons. She formed a small ensemble of various instruments and now takes her music to nursing homes every month.
Mrs Vromans was first diagnosed with MS about 16 years ago. By then, her four now adult children had left home.
Playing the saxophone helps her cope with severe nerve pain caused by MS.
Mrs Vromans discovered that she wasn’t too bad a player and, with the support of a few friends, formed the ensemble The Raga Puffins.
But at first, she constantly felt fatigued. Then the pain started.
She tried to cope with heavy medication until she discovered that learning a musical instrument could help with relaxation, which eased the pain to some extent.
"I loved the saxophone, so I thought why not give it a try," she said. "It's been great."
There is still pain, for which she has injections three times a week, as well as other medication. There is still fatigue. Summer is the worst time of the year for her, because it drains her energy. Sleeping is often difficult.
When it gets bad, she gets out her saxophone, plays a few tunes and feels "at least a little bit better".
The ninth Wollongong Mega Swim organised by Multiple Sclerosis Australia and Figtree Lions Club will again raise funds to provide special Go for Gold scholarships for MS sufferers.
The annual event has so raised more than $300,000.
Funds raised will allow people with MS to fulfill their potential in life by pursuing aspirations in the fields of employment, sport, travel, education or the arts.
A record 17 teams consisting of more than 180 swimmers will compete at this weekend’s Mega Swim.
Figtree Lions Club organiser Bill Wright said support for this year’s event was outstanding.
"This year will see the highest numbers of teams and swimmers competing," Mr Wright said.
"While the Mega Swim has a serious side – that is the raising of money – it is also a fun event for the swimmers. We want them to enjoy themselves, so we have some fun prizes during the event."