You know that feeling of knowing that you’re in the exact right place doing precisely what you’re meant to be doing? That feeling of being completely in the moment when nothing else matters? One year ago today, that was my life. I was on the New Mexico border of Colorado getting ready to head north to the Wyoming border. Doesn’t sound too extravagant, right? The difference was I was on foot, about to set out on the journey of my lifetime. I was attempting to run 500 miles across the Colorado Rockies for epilepsy awareness.
Where My Journey Started
Let me back up a bit first to give some background on how I got to that position. In 1990, I was a normal eight-year-old girl doing what eight-year-old girls in rural Colorado do. I was in second grade. I played sports, camped, hiked, played with my friends and rode my bike. Not a lot of worries or stress in my life. Then one day, I was spinning around on the bars at the playground and fell off into the gravel. I got up and acted like nothing happened. In fact, I wasn’t sure what did happen.
It started to occur more often. At the same time at home, I would be sitting at the dinner table with my family and start laughing uncontrollably for no particular reason and grasping my right upper arm. My family thought I was just being goofy. The abnormal behavior brought concern to my parents and eventually we made it in to see the doctor. That is when my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with Simple Partial Gelastic Seizures. To make a really long story short — a story filled with hospitals, EEGs, MRIs, horrendous medication side effects, embarrassment of losing control of my bladder and trying to find control in this uncontrollable part of my life, I had epilepsy.
With all the bad things that come with having epilepsy, I was as lucky as I could be because of my support system. My parents and my big brother never let me believe that I was different or that I couldn’t do anything I wanted to. Sure, there were things that I had to play a bit more safe than other kids and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered my parents spent most of my childhood scared out of their minds of when the next episode would be and if I would be okay. Would I be playing soccer or would I be crossing the street? Would I be able to get my driver’s license? Would I be able to have children? But that fear was never put onto me. I succeeded in academics, athletics and socially throughout my life despite fighting this internal battle.
Now back to where this story started: on the New Mexico border of Colorado. Again with the support of my family, friends, the epilepsy community, the CrossFit community and amazing sponsors (including PurePharma), I was about to dive into what I branded Move Mountains. There were a lot of unknowns. Could I complete it? Would my body hold up? Was the route I picked the right one? Would people listen? Would we raise the goal money? All of those unknowns were irrelevant because I knew whatever I did and whatever happened it was the right thing for my mission.
With the help of my support system, we were about to change lives. We were about to bring awareness to a condition that affects one in 26 people at some time in their life but has a stigma about it that impacts people’s courage to speak out. This stigma kept me from telling anyone about my seizure disorder for 22 years. I now was in a position where I had a bit of a following that I could really make a difference. It was time to let the world know.
30 days after that day on the New Mexico border, I found myself on the Wyoming border. I was tired, I was beaten down and my life was changed forever. I just wanted to keep going. I had covered 500 miles, climbed 35,000 feet in elevation and dropped 34,000 feet in elevation over eight mountain passes. I lost 13 pounds, six toenails and 4.5 inches in each thigh.
But I gained strength, confidence, courage, self-perspective and a new passion in life. I got messages from moms that had lost their daughters to SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death to Epilepsy). I got to spend 30 days in my head trying to figure out what it is that makes me feel fulfilled. I got to see the love and kindness from complete strangers. I heard stories from people that are suicidal due to the lack of control they have in their life because of epilepsy and somehow I had given them the motivation to keep trying. I met people that showed me what it means to truly be strong.
There are no words to explain the feeling of following your heart, showing vulnerability and as a result helping more people than you ever thought possible. Life is bigger than us. It’s bigger than what we do or how much money we make or how fast we did a workout. Life is about giving yourself to help a greater cause. Following passions and inspiring others to do the same. It’s about trusting in your community and your support system. It’s about loving to the best of your ability and really living and being in each moment.
Move Mountains With Jenny LaBaw
A year later, my Move Mountains journey has taken my life in a direction I never dreamed of. I am an ambassador for AthletesVsEpilepsy. I have started a part-time position with the National Epilepsy Foundation as the Program Manager for the Wellness Institute. And on October 19th, the anniversary of the completion of my run, I am excited to announce that with the Epilepsy Foundation we will be hosting the inaugural Move Mountains charity workout. I am asking for your help this year to continue to help me raise awareness about epilepsy. Whether you’re a member of a box or not, I ask that you join in with your community on Wednesday, October 19th to show those living with epilepsy that they are not alone. That they have people fighting with them. That they too can move mountains. The workout is as follows and you can register here.
In the Box/Gym
Run 1 mile
26 burpee box jumps (20″/24″)
26 strict pull-ups
26 thursters (65/95#)
26 strict knees-to-elbows
26 kettlebell swings
Out of the Box/Gym
Run 1 mile
26 alternating reverse lunges