Editor’s note: Because Purpose2Play has been telling the stories of athletes, coaches, and fans for more than three years, we figure it’s about time to catch up with some of them to find out where they are now. As you’ll see, they’re still inspiring others and making the world a better place to live in.
Where Are They Now? Catching Up with Jami Marseilles (“First Female Bilateral Amputee Marathon Runner, Shows Best Parts of Humanity,” July 5, 2016)
Jami Marseilles has shouldered more than her fair share of adversity, but she still manages to stay positive.
During times when her tween children squabble, her favorite thing to tell them is, “I choose happy.” While the saying may irk them now, we suspect that one day they will come to realize how truly exceptional their mother’s motto and attitude is.
When she was 19, Marseilles narrowly avoided death in a tragic accident. She and a friend were caught in a brutal snow storm when they became lost on a remote logging road trying to get home. They were trapped in their SUV for eleven days, sustaining themselves on a six pack of soda and a single cinnamon roll. When they were finally discovered, the sub-zero temperatures had left Marseilles so severely frostbitten that both of her legs had to be amputated below the knee.
Twenty-eight years after the accident, in October 2015, Marseilles completed the Chicago marathon. Then, to support and honor the victims of the Boston bombing attack, she completed the Boston marathon in 2016. She was the first female bilateral below-the-knee amputee to finish each of these historic races, and following her victorious run, we got to speak with her.
We learned that Marseilles had made history even before Boston. In a twist of irony, it was only after the life-changing experience of losing her legs that she began her love affair with fitness and running. Her dedication and drive during recovery eventually led her to becoming a world-class athlete, winning gold medals and setting a world record as a sprinter in the 200-meter dash in the 1999 Southern Cross Multi Disability Championships in Australia.
New Challenges Same Determination
Her story of triumph after adversity caught national attention and the hearts of many. After the Boston Marathon, Marseilles was invited to throw the first pitch at Fenway for the Red Sox, and she gave a motivational speech to the New England Patriots for FOX Sports‘ “Mission Possible” video series.
However, the celebration was cut short in October 2016, when Marseilles received sobering news that she had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. True to her unshakeable nature, she tackled both the diagnosis and treatment with grit and positivity. She credits that to the support of her husband, Beau, and their two children who encourage her through the hard days.
A lumpectomy was the first step to recovery. That was followed by 33 radiation treatments, the last of which ended in mid-April. While she is still too sore to run or jump rope yet, she said she felt blessed to be able to keep up with going to work and to the gym through the duration of the radiation treatments.
The cancer diagnosis had Marseilles questioning if she was doing enough, and she realized that she needed to try something new.
“I started going to therapy for the first time, and it’s been very enlightening and very freeing,” she said. “I’ve learned to voice more of the positive beliefs. That helps make the negative self-talk go away. Going to therapy has helped me feel so much lighter than I did before.”
A Mother and a Survivor
Marseilles is focused on weighing the pros and cons of different preventative medications moving forward. At the forefront of her mind is how she can take care of her loved ones as long as possible. Being a mother and being able to watch her children grow is a top priority.
“With this diagnosis, and its ups and downs, I’m trying to acknowledge and take care of myself both mentally and physically,” Marseilles said. “Sometimes I feel guilty I’m not doing enough. I think for me, having children has been a big struggle in a good way, but I’m loving them 150%. I’m providing for them, and this is just the path God chosen for all of us.”
Marseilles’ husband, Beau, is always quick to remind her how valuable her efforts have been. As a team, they have increased their healthy living through clean eating and replacing morning coffees with freshly pressed juice.
“Getting this diagnosis sucks. It sucks so bad, but gosh, it could be so much worse,” Marseilles said. “I really believe the diagnosis came at a good time for me to make the changes I’ve always wanted to make.”
Consistently voicing positive beliefs has helped Marseilles remain upbeat across social media. Amid Instagram photos of home-juiced green wheatgrass, she sprinkles humorous hashtags like #NoLegsNoBoobsNoProblem.
I asked Marseilles how she stays motivated to keep up with the social media accounts, interviews, and motivational speaking events during this time.
“Social media is a hard balance staying consistent while trying to balance a full-time job, children, a husband, the gym, and medical doctors, but I think it’s really important because of the platform that I’ve been given,” she said. “I think it’s important to show others that you never want to give up. I’ve always said that I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I know while I’m here, I can be better than I was yesterday, and I try. I try every day.”
Looking forward to the future, Marseilles says there will be a half-marathon or marathon on her comeback calendar for 2018. In the meantime, she is enjoying life to its fullest and being the best mother, wife, friend, and teacher she can be.
“I’m not my legs. I am a strong soul that has a chance to make a difference in other people’s lives and I choose happy. Life is hard enough as it is.”
We can’t wait to see her crush her next goal, and we wish her the best during this time of healing.
Happy Mother’s Day, Jami Marseilles!