by Jessica Garvin
My name is Jessica and I’m a regular Joe… or Joan, or Jane… whatever, I’m just average. By the way, it’s all a part of Spartan’s plan, to turn the “average person” into a Spartan Hero. Well, they found me.
I’m a single mom of two, and I live in L.A.I drive a mini van. I don’t like boo boo’s. I don’t like scrapes, scars, blisters, splinters, bruises or paper cuts. I will cry if I stub my pinky toe. My nails are not long, but are manicured. I don’t like to be cold or too hot for that matter. I don’t want to put anything of mine into a bucket of ice. Ever. I like Chai tea lattes from Coffee Bean and fuzzy socks. I’m a little bit of a girlie girl. But don’t judge me yet.
On the flip side, when my kids are not around, the F-bomb is a necessary part of my vernacular. I can drink almost anyone under the table. I can gross out the most perverted, dirty dudes, and I rock at bar basketball. I own one pair of heels and none of my purses cost over $50 bucks, not because I can’t afford it, but because $1000 bag is really stupid. People are starving. I live in flip-flops and converse, and hardly wear any makeup. BUT, I would grab my lip-gloss first if in a fire.
I like pink.
So what does any of this have to do with Spartan Race, you ask? This year I re-connected with an old best friend. The kind of best friend you laugh with, hysterically, while going through a drive-thru. The Thelma and Louise kind of best friend. I don’t know what happened that made us lose touch. I got married; she moved to NY, blah, blah. It sounds cliché now, but we found each other on facebook and picked up immediately where we left off as if no time had passed at all. Except it had: a very important, life altering chunk of time for both of us in our own ways. I told her of my two kids; she told me of her two battles with cancer. I told her of my divorce; she told me of her third battle with the same cancer. I was trumped. Humbled. Suddenly, selfless. I wanted to cry for her, but I didn’t. That would have been self-gratifying and in no universe should someone with an illness be made to comfort someone without one.
With a torturously brief “clear” period, she was here in Los Angeles with me. She was hoping to grab a stake in this life again. She looked for a job, made some new friends, got drunk with an old boyfriend, walked on the beach, met my daughter who said to me, “she’s your friend that’s in the picture on our fridge”. The picture I placed there after we re-connected with a word bubble over her head that reads, “Suck it cancer.” I told my children who were 3 and 5 at the time who she is and that she’s sick but fighting it. And that that’s what we do. We fight for things that we want. And she is very brave.
Periodically, when standing in the kitchen, they will ask about her and my son will say, “I hope your friend gets better mama.” So do I, little man. So do I.
But, her time in LA was short and a routine check proved that her fight was not over.
Today, she is in NY, fighting again. This is her fourth battle with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s. Fourth. And I miss her. And I need her. And I’m sad. I was supposed to be the friend that would hold her hand after chemo, read her the tabloids, mock the male nurses or sleep with the hot one. I was supposed to be the friend that would shave my head when she lost her hair and paint funky moles on our scalps. I was supposed to be there. But, I am here.
One morning I read an email from her. She had been looking at my facebook profile. Admiring my life, my kids, my various pictures of me doing stand-up, out with friends, random status updates that have no meaning. Her email simply read, “I’m so proud of you. I love your life.” I was changed. I’ve always felt blessed. Not a day passes when I don’t feel grateful, but it suddenly became clear that I wasn’t giving my life the respect it deserved. I wasn’t giving my life the respect SHE deserved. And so it began. Seek and she shall find… or something like that. I sought.
Then, I found Spartanrace.com, or it found me, and I was mesmerized. Hooked. Stunned. I. Was. In. Love. Crazy Love. Mad Love. Almost immediately my thoughts went to my friend. If she could fight cancer, I could climb a wall. In the same instant, my goal for my 40th birthday went from rocking a bikini at burning man, to making Spartan my b… Okay, that’s a bit of an over statement.
But something happened to me that day. I wanted something for myself for the first time in a really long time. I wanted to feel my life running through me. And I wanted to show my friend that I feel it. Suddenly, I started finding myself doing pull-ups on the monkey bars while at the park with my 4 year old. I found myself not only taking the stairs instead of an elevator, but also taking two steps at a time. I found that when just sitting on the floor, I would lean back a bit and secretly, isometrically do a crunch. I bought a chin up bar for my room door and I don’t hang laundry on it.
I was recently asked why I would want to do this. I couldn’t explain it. You either get it or you don’t. But, the real answer is, because I can. My best friend sits in a hospital room today, waiting for chemo so that she can be strong enough to have a bone marrow transplant. Again. I don’t want to have to get cancer or have a near death experience for me to find out who I really am or appreciate all that I have been blessed with or what I’m really made of. I won’t finish first, but I will finish and I will show my friend that I may not be able to fight FOR her, but I can fight WITH her. I will wear her name on my sleeve so when I want to exit the race, I won’t. Because she can’t exit hers.
My name is Jessica. I’m just a regular person. Just a mom. Just a friend. And this race terrifies me, which is exactly why I am doing it.