triathlete training to swim English Channel | Webster Kirkwood Times

Jonathan Whiting lost his wife, Lori, to a rare form of cancer called cholangiocarcinoma in October 2016. She was 53 and a mother of two. Whiting will swim across the English Channel in July next year to raise money for cholangiocarcinoma cancer research. He is shown training in the Lodge Des Peres lap pool. | photo of Ursula Ruhl

A Kirkwood man’s mission to help find a cure for a rare type of cancer involves attempting to swim across the English Channel in the Atlantic Ocean.

Jonathan Whiting has a personal vendetta against cholangiocarcinoma cancer. This obscure bile duct cancer, whose few symptoms mimic other diseases, claimed the life of his wife, Lori, on October 11, 2016. She was 53 years old.

Her husband has made it his mission to raise awareness and fund research to fight this rare but deadly form of cancer, which is essentially undetectable until it’s too late. To do this, he plans to swim across the English Channel next summer. The date is scheduled for July 17 or July 23, 2022 – weather permitting.

The longtime ultra-runner, triathlete and swimmer from Whiting is used to going the distance, but he’s never attempted a challenge of this magnitude. Still, he said Lori prepared her family to be strong after she left, and it’s clear her unwavering will is what drives him.

“Lori never seemed to be afraid. Instead of saying, ‘Why me?’ she said, ‘Why not me? Cancer just wants to live too,” he recalls.

“She constantly found silver linings to be grateful for in her daily life. His attitude was overwhelmingly positive,” he added. “She once asked me to take a video of a procedure to share with other cancer patients so they wouldn’t be scared.”


Left to right: Jonathan Whiting, his son Cole, his late wife Lori and daughter Emma.

A challenge

To swim in the English Channel that separates southern England from northern France, Whiting will have to swim 21 miles wide, in 57-60 degree water – without a wetsuit – while encountering jellyfish. He may also face hypothermia or swimming-induced pulmonary edema. He will be 60 when he tries swimming.

The fastest time to complete the challenge is 6 hours and 55 minutes, but it took one swimmer 28 hours and 44 minutes to complete. The first known person to accomplish the feat of swimming in the English Channel was 27-year-old merchant sea captain Matthew Webb in 1875.

According to the Channel Swimming Association in the UK, only 1,881 people have completed documented solo swims through the water passage.

To prepare, Whiting is working with a coach who conquered the Channel in 1983. Carol Breiter, who lives in Sacramento, Calif., is a retired marathon swimmer who coaches successful swimmers across the Channel. since 1985.

“At the time, Carol was one of the best long-distance swimmers in the world,” Whiting said. “You have to have a certain strength to be allowed to attempt the channel, especially because of the currents. I had to do three 500-yard swims and send him my times. His response was, “I think we can work with that.”

For training, Whiting swims at Lodge Des Peres three nights a week. He uses paddles and tubes to learn how to maintain a certain rhythm which he will have to maintain – completely unaided – for 15 to 20 hours when he attempts to swim in the ocean.

Before swimming across the English Channel, Whiting must complete a six-hour swim. He will do so with Coach Breiter by his side, while swimming 10 miles across Lake Tahoe in Nevada.


Steven Rosenberg, MD, and Lori Whiting at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. While Lori Whiting was receiving treatment at the National Institutes of Health, Rosenberg was decorated as Government Worker of the Year by President Barack Obama. | photo courtesy of Jonathan Whiting

Fundraising and Awareness

Whiting said he plans to apply his wife’s intense sense of strength to his mission to raise awareness and funds to help fight this particular type of cancer.

He said when Lori was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in early 2012, their family could hardly find any literature about it. He intends to change that and is working with representatives of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation to seek sponsors for his race in the English Channel to raise $25,000 for the cause. He has raised around $4,500 so far.

“Locally, I may start sugar shack fundraisers this summer or fall,” he added.

The couple’s daughter, Emma, ​​was finishing her first semester at college and her son Cole was in his second year at Kirkwood High when Lori received the first test results from a local doctor at Mercy Hospital.

Lori spent several years participating in cancer trials at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Conventional cancer treatments remain ineffective against cholangiocarcinoma, and most people diagnosed with advanced disease have less than a 5% chance of surviving five years.

About 8,000 people in the United States develop cholangiocarcinoma each year, according to statistics from the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. Two out of three people with cholangiocarcinoma are usually aged 65 or older when discovered. However, medical teams say there has been an alarming increase over the past decade in the number of young people being diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.


Jonathan Whiting swims laps at Lodge Des Peres. | picture by Ursula Rühl

An inspiration

Lori’s family and friends remain in awe of the strength and fiercely positive attitude she maintained during her battle with illness. She had a particularly profound effect on her colleagues at Keysor Elementary School in Kirkwood, where she was a secretary.

“Through it all, Lori never lost her positivity or sense of her greatest purpose in life,” said Kelly Eschenroeder, who worked with her at Keysor Elementary.

Eschenroeder said staff members witnessed firsthand how Lori rose to this ultimate human challenge in the battle for her life.

“It changed the way we view death and dying. She was definitely an inspiration,” she said.

This inspiration is always felt – and seen.

“As a testament to the depth with which Lori touched the lives of others, the elementary school has dedicated the entire south side of the school’s facade to a bird sanctuary called the Lori B. Whiting Bird Sanctuary. .. and it has starfish stepping stones,” she said. said her husband, explaining that a starfish has become an important symbol in Lori’s fight.

Whiting said at one point that Lori underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumor from her liver.

“Because the liver regrows like the arm of a starfish, the starfish has become symbolic of its cancer journey,” he said. “The day before we left for Lori’s second trial at the National Institutes of Health, she showed me that all the teachers and staff (at Keysor) had changed their Facebook homepages to starfish.”

In addition to the Lori B. Whiting Bird Garden at Keysor Elementary School, a starfish in her memory also resides in front of the library inside the school.

Make a donation

To donate to Whiting’s fundraiser for cholangiocarcinoma:

• To visit

• Donors can also text TeamCCF9 on 71777