As I look back at my posts from last year I realize how often I would update the loving people in my life about my racing adventures. This year has definitely been different. Not different in a bad way, but different in the sense of learning, growing, and overcoming. Often times when we hear “different” we immediately think it is something negative. Different isn’t always easy, but sometimes essential for self discovery.
The last post I made was about this insane seven stage triathlon I did in September. When I finished that race I was extremely tired…more than usual. I knew I had taxed my body with three half ironmans, an Olympic and sprint tri, and then ending with a very challenging endeavor (the SOS triathlon). But this tiredness lasted. As excited as I was for my training to begin again in November, my body wasn’t.
Here is my attempt of a month-by-month play-by-play of joy, love, loss, uncertainty, fun, disappointment, and self-discovery…
- Start my 7th year as a teacher (wild!)
- A dear dear friend loses her amazing father suddenly. Think of all of you every single day.
- Complete the SOS triathlon (piece of cake)
- Friends wedding.
- Blood work begins to figure out my exhaustion.
- The sudden loss of a dear friend/neighbor/teammate and coach. I think of you everyday Mikey and still have your pull buoy that you gave me years ago when I started doing triathlons. You are my inspiration every time I go for a swim.
- Another friends wedding.
- Reconnecting with my self.
- Dinner with a new friend (little did I know how amazing that night would be).
- Another friends wedding!
- 10 year High School reunion.
- Start training for Ironman Boulder in August 2016.
- Swim team season begins.
- I get sick for the first, but not last, time this winter.
- Swim team in full swing
- Get sick again (twice this month)
- Running is challenging, can’t get heart rate down.
- Dating a wonderful woman, learning about my own happiness.
- Brothers in for Christmas (yay!).
- Asked to be one of my dear friends maid of honor.
- Swim team!!
- Busy training, teaching, and coaching while balancing a relationship.
- Running is still challenging, can’t get heart rate down.
- Swim team…first ever swimmer of mine to qualify for states! First female in about 10 years!!
- First Valentine’s Day with the person I love.
- Return to my dear coach and admit to her that I am exhausted all the time.
- Utah ski/snowboard trip with family and friends (so needed!!)
- Training is still a struggle, something feels off.
- The heart wrenching loss of a beautiful 9 year old soul. Ashley; you have become my motivation, my drive to be better. Not a day goes by that you and your family aren’t on my mind. You touched so many, and I am forever grateful that I was able to be a part of your beautiful, sparkly, smiley life.
- Mexico with the family and friends in Cancun (might have gotten in an argument with a French lady, ha…good times)
- HR is still high while training.
- Followed for the day by a photographer/journalist depicting a day in the life of strong women (pictures below). Really amazing experience. Thank you Kate Lovering!
- Half marathon with my cousin and his girlfriend. It was their first half and I was honored to run right next to you Drew. Not to mention the incredible support at the start and finish line from my girl
- First triathlon of the season. End up almost winning the whole race (one dude ahead of me).
- More blood work.
- Finally decide to go see an ENT doctor before Memorial Day weekend. He finds something on my throat/vocal chord. Completely benign, but need to go see another specialist the following week.
- See a laryngologist (say that 3x fast!) who says I need to see an even more specialized doctor in Manhattan at Mount Sinai. Then he tells me that racing quassy half that weekend isn’t a good idea. He explains that where this mass is and how it’s obstructing my air way. “Jemila… it’s like you’re breathing through a cocktail straw and someone is pinching your nose..”. Yup, that comment hit home.
- Start to figure out new adventures for my weekends.
- Family wedding. Moms the officiant, brothers are both in!
- LBI with the whole family to get the house ready and discuss how each one of my cousins and brothers want this house in our lives forever and ever.
- Appointment with surgeon at Mount Sinai. He explains that this mass is a malformation that I have probably had most of my life. That my body just finally hit its breaking point (wow). Before seeing him I had to get an MRI and another test to make sure my esophagus was okay and to see how far it went and what they were dealing with. It is sitting on my right vocal chord, blocking part of my airway and wrapping behind my esophagus and behind my throat spreading to the left side (according to the MRI).
- I am told in that appointment that IM Boulder is not in the cards. He tells me to sign up for IM Louisville instead. I feel hopeful that they will start with laser treatments and I will be able to compete in October.
- FIREFLY! An amazing long weekend with my lady, amazing friends, tremendous music and memories to last a lifetime.
- Soak up every last day with those amazing 5th graders I had the honor of teaching.
- Begin summer break with good friend and fellow teammate Jesse. Discover during her visit that pushing on the bike might not be the smartest. Had a MAJOR wake up call while attempting 4 plus hours. Dizziness, confusion, trouble breathing, bloody nose…something was up.
- My favorite month!
- A good friend/teammate and college roommate wedding.
- Finding ways to keep myself sane and active.
- July 6th supposed to leave for Colorado.
- Follow up with surgeon at Mt. Sinai. He breaks news to me that made me almost threw up on site…instead, I cried. he would like to do chemotherapy injections for the next few years until it’s all gone. That I won’t be competing in October and need to find a new hobby because this is going to take the next few years of my life…yup, speechless.
- Process what he has said and go see another doctor that he said would be on the team with him.
- In a fog for a week.
- See an amazing man and what I have now decided as my saving grace. This doctor was a breath of fresh air (pun intended) for me and my mom. He explained that this malformation got worse after puberty and that I have been beating it up with sports since. He tells me that he has had a lot of success with this and that within 6 months he sees me back to training and normal life without breathing complications….as I looked at him he asked why I looked suspicious. He reassured me that he was my guy. That he has done a handful of these, but all on children. Is mine a unique case? Sure is. I guess with the name Jemila you have to have unique malformations also. Nailed it…ha!
- Digest the new information and know that treatments with the laser (no more chemo drug) will begin in either August or September.
- Turn 29, leaving my 28th year behind but not forgotten. Keep my 28th year in my heart and soul. Had a tremendous birthday of activity, water, lunch, driving range, family, friends, tacos and my girl.
- Decide that I can’t go through this whole summer without going to CO. Book a 5 day trip. OMG! Brothers, best friends, red rocks, camping, laughing, being in the moment, reflecting, and rebirth.
- Soaking up the rest of my summer.
- Lumineers (birthday gift!) with cousins and Taylor <3.
- Cape May with my girl and her family.
- Bachelorette party for a friend from kindergarten.
- LBI with family.
- Back to my amazing school for another year of teaching and growth. Year 8 is going to be the best yet.
September (since so much is already planned!)
- Milwaukee for a dear friends wedding (ps, they met because of me…just saying!)
- Friend from kindergartens wedding!
- Surgery on September 13th.
- FIO (FIGURE IT OUT) from there.
I didn’t share this for pity, for condolences or for hand outs. Those of you that know me have known somethings been going on. Are there risks with this surgery? Sure. The malformation could bleed and if they can’t stop it I will have to be trached until the completion of my treatments. It could take longer than the 4-6 treatments they are predicting. But, I am staying optimistic. With an amazing support system, having my head on straight, meditating more and more and holding two very special people close to me I know I will be watched over and it will all go okay.
As for my hobby and love. I am not going to do an IM next year. I trained for almost 8 months this year and wasn’t able to apply any of my hard work. But then again maybe the discipline and training was meant for a different race. For a race that I need mental and physical toughness. A different kind of race. As for next season? The only race that’s on the schedule is my deferred Quassy half at the beginning of June. Will I be able to race? Who knows! Will I be in the best shape for it? Who knows. Will I be able to breathe, I mean truly breathe for the first time in about 15 plus years? Absolutely!
Would I have found this if I wasn’t an athlete and aware of my body? Maybe not. I can not begin to thank my chiropractor (who is literally my primary care physician) Dr. Peter Scordilis. Dr. Peter you never gave up. We tried everything until we found why I was struggling with my heart rate. You are literally my angel. To my parents, brothers, friends and girlfriend, I am not sure I could have gotten through everything and continue to get through everything without you guys. Blessings are all around us, remember to stop and appreciate even the small ones..
To the team that I adore and race for. Maverick Multisport has been behind me the whole way. Chris thank you for understanding and only wishing me love and prayers.
Till then, I count my blessings every morning and know that I am living a life not just for myself. I am living for those that were taken way to early from this world. I am staying active because I will go crazy if I don’t. I am like a puppy (according to Taylor 😉) and I want to move and run and jump and make everyone around me happy. Appreciate the simple joys and love the life you live.