In February of 2015, former South Carolina swimmer Chris Mercer was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. The prognosis was not good, but instead of giving up, Chris Mercer kept on enjoying life and his loved ones. Many treatments and three brain surgeries later, he’s still keeping that mindset, and on Tuesday, Oct. 11, Chris Mercer just expected to go into the office for an hour or so like he normally does.

However, his wife, Sharon Mercer, had other plans. She planned to take him to Columbia and the University of South Carolina, where they met and fell in love.

“I thought we were going to old places to reminisce about what we’ve done over the last 30 years,” Chris said. “The only thing I knew was that I was going to work, but (Sharon) said that, ‘no, I’m going to take you somewhere Tuesday.'”

Of course, Sharon and some other family had another surprise up their sleeve. She took the former Gamecock swimmer to the Carolina Natatorium in the Blatt P.E. Center, the home of South Carolina swimming and diving.

There, Chris was met by family, Gamecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland and head swimming coach McGee Moody. They took Chris into the locker room, where they showed him a locker that was dedicated to him and his brother, E.J. Mercer, another former Gamecock swimmer.

Upon seeing that, Chris turned around and hugged Moody and thanked everyone for the honor. However, it was the least anyone could do after watching him battle cancer courageously for nearly two years.

Both Chris and E.J. walked on to the South Carolina swimming and diving team, and both have fond memories from their time with the Gamecocks. As mentioned before, the University is where Chris met his wife. Sharon was working as a South Carolina lifeguard, and met a classmate, Ellen, who happened to be Chris’ brother. Ellen introduced Sharon to Chris in the middle of a swim workout, and the rest is history.

On Tuesday, Chris was joined by several family members and close friends who wanted to witness the special honor.

“Memories and smells and thoughts and people are the things that make your heart so full,” Sharon said.

Because of the tumor in his brain, Chris suffers from aphasia, a condition that hinders the ability for a person to communicate. Despite that and the three brain surgeries, people close to Chris say he’s still the smartest person they know.

“Probably the most blessed,” Chris responds to that.

Chris grew up destined to be a swimmer because his father, Ed, encouraged the entire family to swim. In fact, Ed and E.J. swam at South Carolina even before the Carolina Natatorium was around. Chris also has a twin brother, Richard, who swam collegiately at Clemson and had great success during his swimming career.

“It was better than football because you break legs in football,” Ed said of swimming.

While he wasn’t the best swimmer in high school, the love for swimming that Chris had made him a much better student at South Carolina.

“He told me he enjoyed the swim team so much, even though he wasn’t a star, that he had to really study because if he got bad grades, I would make him quit the swim team,” Ed said.

Older brother E.J. was probably the most talented swimmer in the family, but Chris made it his mission to make the swim team at South Carolina. Both brothers began their careers as walk-ons, and both ended it as team captains.

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