Carlos Romero: “I have always wanted to contribute in helping people suffering from cancer”

IRB Barcelona scientists supported Carlos Romero for his challenge
IRB Barcelona scientists supported Carlos Romero for his challenge
  • <p>IRB Barcelona scientists supported Carlos Romero for his challenge</p>
  • <p>Carlos visited IRB Barcelona's labs</p>
  • <p>Carlos visited IRB Barcelona's labs</p>
  • <p>Carlos visited IRB Barcelona's labs</p>

For Carlos Romero (Sant Esteve Sesrovires, 1971), swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar took more mental than physical effort. "It is fight against oneself," says the Baix Llobregat resident, who crossed the 14 km between Spain and Morocco on September 22 in favour of cancer research carried out at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine. His charity project began five months earlier with the project “Nadar Contra Corriente” (Swim against the Current), which has managed to raise over 5000€ thanks to supporters, companies, and small businesses in the area.

On 19 February, he came to IRB Barcelona for the symbolic handing over of the proceeds in the form of a cheque—a gathering which was attended by the IRB director Joan J. Guinovart and the cancer researcher Elena Sancho. In vivo had the opportunity to talk to Carlos.

What prompted you to undertake this adventure?

My motivation comes from the contact I had with cancer when I was young. My father died of an inoperable lung cancer at 52, when I was only 24. This experience marked me deeply. Since then, I've always wanted to contribute in some way in helping other people suffering from this disease, to help them have new hopes and opportunities that my father didn’t have at the time.

Why “Nadar Contra Corriente”?

It was by chance. I was an amateur swimmer when I was young, but I hadn’t swum for more than 20 years. I guess the midlife crisis got me back into this sport! Later I discovered that there are people who do it for charities, so I came up with the idea of a swimming challenge linked to the fight against cancer. It turned out that IRB Barcelona had just launched its fundraising campaign with a dance video, and it seemed a great initiative to me. So I talked to Sarah Sherwood, head of communications at the institute and also my neighbour, and right from the beginning she thought it was a fantastic idea. We consolidated the project and launched it in March last year.

How many hours did you train?

I didn’t train really hard, only for about 2 hours a day from February to September. I couldn’t spend any more time training because of my work and family commitments. At weekends I trained for longer, combining swimming with the gym or jogging. But it wasn’t very intense training; I am too old for that!

Once in the sea, was it difficult?

It was less difficult than it seems. The problem is that there are things that you can’t control, such as wind, current, waves… In the Strait, the current is particularly strong. You never know what conditions you are going to encounter. We made a first attempt, where I swam about 7 km, but the current was too strong and we had to call it off. But in fact, the biggest obstacle I faced was a mental one. I knew that if anything happened, I always had a boat next to me to help, but when your muscles begin to hurt and you are tired, you have to have incredible strength of mind to keep saying, "I have to go on, I have to move forward". It is fight against yourself.

Elena Sancho told you about the current stage of cancer research. What impressed you most about what you learnt today?

I think what impressed me the most is the fact that the immune system has become a potential tool with which to fight cancer. As a non-scientist, and without knowing any details, I think this is amazing. Perhaps it’s the breakthrough we have been waiting for, the one that will lead to more therapeutic options for sick people.

Do you have any more challenges planned for the future?

I am the kind of person who needs challenges. If they are not professional, then they will be personal. Right now I'm preparing for the Barcelona marathon, which is being held soon. But when I have completed that, I want to go back to swimming. I haven’t decided on anything in particular, but I will definitely come up with something, don’t you worry. And if not, in 10 years’ time, when IRB Barcelona celebrates its 20th anniversary, I will cross the Strait of Gibraltar twice - to the coast of Africa and back! (Albert Ros Lucas)



Carlos Romero together with friends from Sant Esteve Sesrovires visits IRB Barcelona