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, 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.

26 Responses

  1. avatar

    I’m glad to have read your story. Maybe I should post mine. It gave me the warmnfuzzies! I hope that you enjoy the Spartan Race and that your friend is grateful that YOU are taking your life for granted.

  2. avatar

    Sorry that should have read NOT taking your life for granted.

  3. avatar

    Wow I really love this. Prayers for your friend. I totally get you, I’m doing the super Spartan race dec 3rd. My team has abandoned me. So I will compete alone. Never give up. Aroooo

  4. avatar

    Awesome story! I hope you’re friend pulls through and you do great at the race. I think it’s great you’re running the race in honor of your friend. Good luck!

  5. avatar

    AMAZING, INSPIRING, INCREDIBLE AND JUST AWESOME… Life changing words to live by. We all for one reason or another may get stuck in a rut, but by the grace of God we all get pulled out and forge ahead. This time with Spartan Race all of us are psyched beyond measure to be in it, together we will rise to the top! SPARTAN RACE HERE WE COME…
    All the best to all of you out there who struggle, suffer but never give up.

  6. avatar

    Just regsterd for next year ………..must be mad lolol:)

  7. avatar

    That was beautiful. I did the Spartan race as well, in the Midwest to feel life again. Not because of any MAJOR tragedy but just to feel accomplishment again. Although I didn’t finish, baby daddy dislocated his shoulder half way through, it gave me a goal for next year. Not only to finish but to rock it out. Hood luck, and God bless your friend I hope she does well.

  8. avatar

    Kudos to you! Prayers…May God bless you in your challenge! May God bless your friend in hers!! Wishing you strength, endurance, and speed in your Spartan “Life Race”! Just know that I will be in that huge pack of cheerleaders cheering you and your friend on with encouragement! You may not see all of us cheerleaders…Just know we are there! There with you in spirit!

    God bless!

  9. avatar

    Wow that is an amazing story and both you and your friend are true fighters in life. I pray for her and good luck to you. And Ralph you won’t be alone…I have a group of 4 running on dec. 3rd at 11:30 we can all cheer eachother on!

  10. avatar

    Great post Jessica. Your friend is a fighter. Run every step for the both of you and enjoy the challenge. It changes everything. “You’ll know at the finish line”.

  11. avatar

    love this. I too am praying for your friend. We all have struggles, but sometimes it takes us seeing someone else we love fighting their own battle to kick us in the butt! Two years ago, my mom was fighting for her life after open heart surgery, and I had a very wonderful friend who was dying of pancreatic cancer. I started running again after 10 years because I do love my kids and most parts of my life. My running is a celebration of life—I am living; I am moving. My friend, so sadly, has lost her battle.
    You are making a great tribute to your friend and her battle–live your life! I hope she wins; cancer is EVIL.

  12. avatar

    Don’t fear the race – every step is a victory and your friend will be with you through every obstacle and every step. You’ll be laughing, smiling, proud, happy and filthy dirty! And oh so alive! xoxo

  13. avatar

    I love this story! Thank you for sharing.

  14. avatar

    Team Synergy would like to dedicate their run to your friend.

  15. avatar

    Jessb- truly an amazing story. Your friend is blessed to you have you in her life. And you are so right… we should not wait until we have little to no time left for us to do something. I am proud of you and hope to do something as wonderful as this in my life.

  16. avatar

    Oh my Gosh!!! That just made me cry and actually want to make some steps In my own life!!!!!

  17. avatar

    My prayers are with your friend. My wife had liver cancer 6 years ago. I have run in 5ks 10ks and marathons and this year I ran in my first Spartan race with 12 of my friends (men and women) It’s the most fun I have had with my clothes on. Just enjoy it, you will do fine.

  18. avatar

    Inspirational, caring, and a lover of life! Where have you been all my life! Seriously though, we should all challenge ourselves everyday to get off the couch and push ourselves for those who can not! What a wonderful way to stand by your friend! My prayers go out to her and her family!

  19. avatar

    Thanks Jessica Garvin for a thrilling read and best wishes for a great Spartan experience.

  20. avatar

    Thank you for sharing. You write well.

  21. avatar

    Great post. As we old folk get close to that big 4 number, having a goal is huge. Rock on and kick ass, your friend will be proud

  22. avatar

    I’m Antonio and im 13 years old,idk how old you have to be to do the race but when im old enough im definately doing it i have a 4 year old cousin who drowned and during the swimming part of the race, i will think of him, as im swimming i will think, you may have taken many ppl including my cousin, but you wont take me. My cousin was diagnosed with Autism at 1 years old.

  23. avatar

    Your story is touching.

    Upon reading it, I thought to myself ton’s of little smarta$$ responses from; “she’s cute”, “that’s funny”, to “she has balls”, and “where is she going with this”.
    But now, your point, has been made. Your words are incredibly impactful.

    I suppose that we forget to fight for things we want in the world, because we’re either too blessed to notice the struggle, or two self absorbed to deal with it.

    Your friend needs to be honored, just as the woman in my life battling ovarian cancer, does. For those of us with our health, we should not only have it, use it with disregard for what we have, but do everything in our power to keep it at it’s peek.

    I found the race (Spartan Race)today. Mesmerized and in sheer awe of the photographs presented. I need to do this. For me, for your friend, for my grandmother. Now, why would someone do something for someone she doesn’t even know? Because she can. You are so right… The fact here is that we can (live life to the fullest), and we should. I will.

    I have had personal battle from financial struggles to sexual assault awaken me time and time again… Often times I live life like a battle, and forget others go through what I struggle with ten fold. I will keep your story in my heart and let it motivate me.
    Thank you.

    My heart goes out to you and your best friend.

  24. avatar

    i wish it wasn’t sold out. and that i have enough courage to do a chin up. you rock! enjoy!!

  25. avatar

    Your Words… I will remember this as I race. Thank You for sharing.

    ” 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.”

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