Battle Buddy Series – A Prayer for the Weary, Part 1

A Prayer for the Weary, Part 1

by Darian McIntosh

 

Let’s talk about the word indomitable for a minute. When I think of you, the runner, it is always the first word that comes to mind. A quick Google search says it means impossible to subdue or defeat. If you are training for a race and this pandemic hasn’t put an end to your goal, you absolutely fit that description. 

There may even come a time when you are feeling weary and unsure that you can go on for whatever reason. Perhaps you have experienced it already and were able to tap into the fortitude that we are all capable of. The following is one such story of courage in the face of adversity and my hope is that it will uplift you in the way that it has me. May it be brought to mind when you are feeling at your weakest.

A Story of an Everyman

This week, I have the honor of passing along a story of an ordinary human doing extraordinary things. His name is Jay Hewitt. A pastor by trade at a church in Orange, CA, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2017 at the young age of 36. Initially, it was thought to be inoperable due to its size and location.

After Jay and his loved ones engaged in some prayer and research, it was found that there were only 5 surgeons in the world that would even attempt a tumor-removal surgery as tricky as this and it could only be done while the patient was awake, no less! 

Jay and his wife, Natalie prepared themselves as much as two people can under such conditions and traveled to San Francisco to have the surgery done by a world-renowned specialist. Keep in mind, the surgery was only Step One in a potentially long battle because they had no idea if the tumor was benign or cancerous. The only way the doctors could know this information was to remove the tumor. With the road uncertain, they stepped forward in faith.

Miraculously, the surgery was an absolute success and no further treatment would be required. Jay and Natalie were able to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate life with their 2-year-old daughter, Hero.

Unfortunately, in 2018, Jay experienced another seizure. It was seizures that were among the initial symptoms that alerted him to seek medical treatment the year before. The MRI showed a tumor. This was a new tumor and that meant that cancerous cells were in his brain. Another surgery by the same surgeon in San Francisco would be required.

Though the surgery was again a successful removal and his youth and fit physique were an advantage to his prognosis, the cancerous cells meant that tumors would continue to return. Jay and his family had to hear the worst words that any young family could ever have to hear: terminal brain cancer. The average life expectancy was 8 years.

If you are anything like me, you try to put yourselves in the shoes of someone going through something like that and think. “What would I do with that kind of information?” Perhaps the surreality of the situation may cause you to dream of things you have always wanted to do but fear or life circumstances got in the way: sky-dive, cliff-jump, go on safari, hike Mt. Kilimanjaro, etc. 

Jay had always been an active man and he had accomplished many things in his life that he had wanted to do already. Still, he was no exception. There was indeed something on his bucket list that he thought back on after being handed this awful news.

When Jay was a young boy of 9 or 10, he had watched an Ironman competition for the first time on television. He remembered how much in awe he was at seeing athletes that were able to swim 2.4 miles, then go on to bike 112 miles, right before running 26.2 miles! 

It had never occurred to him that he could be among the most elite of athletes himself. That is, until his daughter, Hero was born in 2015. Upon seeing her, he knew immediately he wanted to do something that seemed impossible. He hearkened back to the memory of that first Ironman he watched. He would lead by example to show her what it means to never quit. Hero would learn that she could do anything she set her mind to. With time on his side, he vowed to complete an Ironman when Hero was around 9 or 10 so she would be old enough to fully grasp this very important life lesson.

But now, time was a luxury that Jay no longer had. He knew he had none left to waste. His biggest heart desire set his next course of action in motion. Leaving a legacy for Hero and showing her how to always believe in herself could not wait another day.

So the moment a plan for treatment was set, the plan to train for an Ironman became solidified. The day he was to receive his first round of radiation and chemotherapy was the day he would begin his training.

For many people given similar news, the intention to tackle a bucket list may be altruistic but the reality is that an illness of this magnitude does not usually provide for feelings of motivation once treatment begins and your body begins feeling its effects.

Being a man of faith, Jay relied on Scripture to lead him when he was feeling at his lowest. He would be the first to tell you that there were many early mornings he woke up for training and his body would immediately complain from the chemotherapy coursing through his body. Not to mention, he had started his training while undergoing 30 courses of radiation and that was certainly of no help. Often, motivation would be seriously waning. 

But when he pushed through the pain, he quickly learned that the exercise brought about the rush of adrenaline he needed to quell the ill effects of the chemo and radiation. He often thought of how much his body seemed to appreciate the movement in the long run. Yes, the exercise was strenuous on his body but it turned out to be the lesser of the two evils. That served as a big motivator but nowhere near as much as the thought that Hero would never give up because her daddy never did.

Jay eventually found a coach who had the expertise that he would need to stay on track. She had done the Ironman a few times, herself. She was also a cancer survivor. 

Along the way in his training, Jay’s body had let him know when he was pushing too hard with some most unpleasant side effects, such as seizures and muscle cramps brought on by the chemo. His coach had the know-how that was needed to push Jay to his limits without going over the top. She helped him to tune in and listen to his body.

Covid-19 Throws Everyone for a Loop

While training for an Ironman, Jay, like the rest of the world, had to deal with the fallout from all of the necessary closures that came with the pandemic. This meant that he no longer had the aid of his coach and had to go it alone for the rest of his training. As we all know, having that battle buddy to cheer us on during our toughest trials is as necessary as the air we breathe. Thankfully, Jay also had the love and admiration of his friends and family to keep him going.

Before Covid, Jay had signed himself up for the Australian Ironman, set for May of 2020, as travel was also something that he loved. He might as well accomplish crossing off another thing on his bucket list while he was at it.

But when Covid hit, Jay, already weak and immuno-compromised from his treatment, had to ask himself if it was the wisest choice to get on a plane and be around 1,000 other runners during a pandemic.

His question was quickly answered when Ironman Australia promoters canceled the event. Not deterred but still determined, Jay signed up for the more travel-friendly Ironman Santa Rosa in July of 2020. Not surprisingly, he was given the news that that event would be canceled as well.

Talking with Jay

When I interviewed Jay, one of the things he said that resonated with me was, “There is victory just in the attempt.” 

Jay had certainly accomplished his main goal and then some. In giving Hero an example of perseverance against the odds, he went above and beyond. Covid could not take away the fact that he had pushed his body to within its very limits and never wavered from his end goal.

He had achieved victory without ever getting to the start line. And now, due to the pandemic, it looked as if that had to be enough.

The Lesson We Take Away

In conclusion of part 1 of Jay’s story, we come to step #4 of our series:

#4: Find your Victory

To read about the continuation of Jay’s story, come back next week for the next Battle Buddy post. 

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