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100 Days of Gladness, Day 9

The doctors, the donor, and the day Jet's new heart went in.

Jet is her nickname. She’s twelve. It’s 1984.Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 2.Her family rallies. She fights. Anyone who’s been through chemo and radiation forty years ago will know. It’s not pretty. But she survives.

They tell her she will not be able to have children.

About a decade later, now in her twenties, she develops breast cancer caused by the treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma. She fights. She survives.

And somewhere in there, she marries and gives birth to two beautiful boys!

Then, it’s breast cancer again. Total mastectomy. There is enough suffering and perseverance for many books to be written, but this is not what we’re doing right now.

We’re only getting started. In her late teens, she qualifies as a lifeguard. Years later, she becomes a fitness instructor. One like you’ve never seen before. Here she is, dressed up for her water fitness class as Captain America. (Her people never know what to expect. She’s shown up as Cher, Lady Gaga, Cruella Deville.)

from jetwaterfitness instagram page

She has helped countless people get healthier and happier — and she’s done it with the bright light that shines from inside her, and with a sense of humor that would knock you right off your feet.

You’d think that would be enough, right?

I’ve learned over the years that there is no point beyond which we are allowed to just sit back and relax, having done “enough.” We are continually being given joys and challenges, and it doesn’t end until it Ends (and maybe not even then, who knows?).

Just last month, on November 6th, while teaching a class in the pool, she suffered a massive heart attack. She coded on the way to the hospital.

She was on life support for weeks, coded several times more while doctors scrambled to find any way to keep her alive. Eventually, a heart transplant was the only option. As a 3x cancer survivor, that’s no small risk. There is a great deal of internal damage that must be considered, and our fears for her increased exponentially because of it.

But don’t forget who we’re dealing with here. We’re talking Jet. The one who had dedicated her life to being fit, and to helping others find their fitness. The one who loves and inspires ferociously, and who does. not. give up.

That precious new heart went in on December 10th, 2023. Successfully, not only because of her great medical team, but because she was so fit.

We are feeling an incalculable gratitude for the donor (an 18-year-old is all we know), and to their family, who must be feeling unimaginable grief right now.

We are feeling profound gratitude for the doctors and nurses who not only monitored Jet’s every breath and heartbeat for a month — but who spoke to her with tenderness and encouragement, who told her she was beautiful when there was no indication she could even hear it. Gladness that all those medical professionals went to school when they did, and showed up for work when they did. That they’re all in the world in the first place.

Gratitude that we didn’t have to lose this engine of joy on the earth.

Thank you, Jet, for fighting so hard, for still trying when all your trying was used up, and for your beautiful smile, which is a nutrient this world needs now more than ever.

Rock on, Wonder Woman.


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