A Triathlon. A Friendship. A Fight to a Cure…

Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes…

It’s a lesson many of us learned this week under the wings of two very special 8 year olds. One named Lizzy. One named Rosalie aka Rosie as some call her.

Being that I am a PE Coach at Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy, I have the fortune to serve as a coach towards both of these young ladies. As a coach, we are always learning new things from the kids, but little did I know the lesson these two could teach so many of us from simply competing in a Triathlon… A lesson of Friendship. A lesson of HEART. A lesson of Life…

A quick rewind, Lizzy’s inspiration to compete in a triathlon came after 2 years of watching myself and friends compete in the Ironman New Orleans. Her mom, Katie, also played a huge roll in supporting us and her daughter throughout this process. After she led myself and my buddy Garrett through the finish line this past April, she was determined to compete in her own Triathlon. That same day, she had the tri picked out…

Lizzy leading myself and Garrett through the finish line at the Ironman New Orleans.

Wild Thing Triathlon –  July 26, 2016

250 yd swim –  .5 Mile run – 3 Mile bike

None of us could ever imagine how special this day would end up being…

Let me remind you, Lizzy is 8…Probably didn’t even know what a triathlon was until a few years ago, and now she’s just successfully completed her very own. This little girl has guts.

Even better, Lizzy decides on her own she wants to participate in the triathlon for MindSetGo, which from my standpoint, is unbelievably awesome. She and her mom, Katie, adopt the “Think Positive. Live Positive.” motto. Then, Lizzy far exceeds each of our expectations by what she does next…

Lizzy learns of an illness in which one of her friends has, becomes curious to learn more, and takes it in her own hands to dedicate her first Triathlon for her friend, Rosie…

Again, this is an 8 year old, making these thoughtful decisions on her own.

Starting to pick up on the inspiration Lizzy has been to us?

Good. Because it gets better…

Lizzy ready to go after she picked up her Race shirt and number!

Now, if I had to briefly describe Rosie to you, I’d tell you she is full of life. Her social skills as an 8 year old are far greater than most. If Rosie is in the room, it’s more than likely you know it, simply because she has probably gone out of her way to tell you hello. She will look you in the eye, talk to you about anything and everything, including her pet frog, Princess Fiona. She has an incredible enthusiasm in her step, and loves to stay on the move. She’s also extremely sincere and very sensible to those around her…There’s just something about Rosalie that’s rather compelling…

That’s the healthy side of Rosie, the real Rosie. Unfortunately, it’s a side hindered by an illness labeled as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, also known as JRA.

For those unaware (like myself), JRA is the most common type of arthritis in children under the age of 17. Roughly 1 child in every 1,000 develops JRA, an estimated 300,000 children who are diagnosed. JRA causes constant joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Some children will experience these symptoms for only months, while others will experience it for the rest of their lives. Fluctuations of symptoms, where the JRA gets worse and flares up or it gets better and goes into remission are fairly typical, but vary from child to child. Rosie has been battling JRA for 6 years now, and is still battling today.

It can cause further complications such as growth problems and eye inflammation to the extremity of loss of vision, and treatments are focused on controlling pain, improving function, and preventing joint damage. JRA occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues, which is unknown why this even happens. JRA is also now more formally known as JIA, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Either way, it sucks.

On the surface, a child with JRA can seem normal, yet internally, there is a world of pain hindering even the easiest daily activities. But the affects JRA has on Rosie has become much more apparent due to her recent loss of hair. She still has that enthusiasm about life, yet her pain can almost be felt a little more outwardly. The thing about Rosie is she knows nothing more than to keep going, to keep fighting. It’s in her blood. It’s who she is. She’s an absolute warrior.

Curious to know a little more about JRA and how it affects Rosie, I reached out to Rosie’s mom, Ms. Brandi, who was so extremely open to share the battle in which Rosie has been facing sine she was just 2 years old…The more I learned about Rosie, the more I could sense her ability to inspire those around her. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, and Rosie is living proof of this.

So, before we continue on, let’s take a moment to learn Rosie’s story and her journey with JRA in hopes to simply help spread awareness and educate others on Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis….

Rosalie’s journey began when she twisted her knee at Tumble Bus at the age of 2. The swelling never subsided after a month, which led to Rosalie being diagnosed with JRA just a few months after her 2nd Birthday. Blood work later showed she was susceptible to JRA at any point in her life and anything could have activated it. Rosie then began taking anti-inflammatories  along with other steroids to get the inflammation under control. Eventually, Rosie went into medical remission, and she began to slowly be weaned off the drugs. Unfortunately, just a few months later, the inflammation returned, and this time it was in her ankles and wrists. Because of this, Rosalie had to begin taking steroids again.

By the time she was 4, Rosie was on a number of steroids, one of which is even used in chemotherapy. Through continuous and ongoing blood work to closely monitor her organs, it was discovered inflammation was present in her body. Due to this, Rosie also has to be administered weekly shots at home…Side note, she is terrified of needles, and rightfully so, yet she has to face this fear each and every week… This week, Rosie already had her shots on Monday night.

When’s Rosie’s joints are inflammed, it causes stiffness and soreness and sometimes leads her to be immobile. Being as active and on the go as she is, immobile and Rosie are two things that should not be used in the same sentence, yet that is one of the realities that lies with JRA. Rosie loves to dance and was an all star cheerleader, but had to be removed from both of these activities because of the pain it would cause her. Now, Rosie stays active through swimming.

Throughout all the medication changes, as one can imagine, it also takes a toll on Rosie emotionally.

As Ms. Brandi describes it,

“I have walked into her room to see her crying on the floor and she has no idea why but is just scared. It sort of mimics someone detoxing. Essentially that is what her body is doing, detoxing off of meds while adjusting to others.”

Outside of the emotional roller coaster Rosie and her family experience, the steroids also cause Rosie to gain and lose excessive amounts of weight at a time. At times, she even swells up to the point where she is unrecognizable. And because her young body is working so hard to fight off the JRA, there is nothing left to help her fight off something as simple as a common cold or anything else that passes from one person to another. Just 2 years ago, she came down with the flu and was put in the emergency room. Doctors even thought it was meningitis because of how sick she had become. Thankfully, Rosalie was able to fight as she always does and make a full recovery.

It usually takes her twice as long to recover from common illnesses,” says Ms. Brandi.

For me, and probably you also, this wears me out to even think of all the obstacles Rosalie endures through each day, for over 6 years now. She endures through so much, and her ability to face each day head on sure as hell is motivating, but damnit, it’s also exhausting. It exhausts Rosie. It exhausts her family. If you ever have the chance to meet Rosie, you would be baffled at how much energy she can move around with, despite the exhausting affects JRA has on her.

And then there is the hair loss…which gives Rosie the appearance that she is indeed slowed down by something, yet many unaware just how deep her battle dips. What’s causing Rosie to lose her hair is something that has yet to be 100% determined. Blood work and tests are currently being done to explore what the cause of her hair loss may be.

One thing Ms. Brandi said about her daughter that sums up the type of person Rosalie is…

“She rarely complains because she knows that if she tells us she is hurting, then we make her get off of her feet and rest and she doesn’t like to be slowed down.”

As I tried to understand and grasp everything that goes on with Rosie, Ms. Brandi broke it down to me very simply:

“God has great things planned for her and I know that this is part of His plan to shine His light through her.”

To me, from what I’ve learned and have seen from Rosie over the past year as her coach…

She’s a fighter. She’s a motivator. She’s an inspiration. She’s part of a plan, God’s plan, to shed light on others, and that’s exactly what she does each day she is given. She’s all of this and so much more, and she’s only 8 years old.

Now, are you starting to pick up on why Rosie is such an inspiration to those around her?

Good. Because it gets better… 🙂

Here we are today, July 30, 2016.  Lizzy has completed her triathlon. Wait, she didn’t just complete it, she kicked it’s ass.

And guess who was right by her side each step of the way to keep pushing her on…

Yep, you got it…Dressed in her “Fight like a girl” baseball cap, her pink “Keep Calm and Shine On” tank top (which Lizzy and Katie thoughtfully had made for Rosie), one huge smile, and energy enough for all of us, it was none other than Rosalie. There to support her friend, just as her friend was supporting her.

From before the race where the two walked hand in hand to the pool area, from the swim where Rosie literally walked stroke for stroke with Lizzy around the entire pool, to the transition where Rosie greeted Lizzy out the water, to the run where she endlessly cheered Lizzy on, to the bike where she was by her side from the moment Lizzy grabbed her bike to when she took off for the 3 mile ride, to the finish line, where they hugged and smiled and celebrated being there for one another.

Lizzy and Rosalie walking to the pool before the race hand in hand. 🙂

Lizzy had an entourage with her that day, nearly 20 friends and family members. I’m not lying when I tell you the friendship, the bond, and the will these two girls showed for each other was absolutely awe striking. Excited and proud in our own ways, we were all left speechless by the determination shown by Lizzy and Rosie. It was something none of us were expecting, yet it just made perfect sense when it was all happening.

We are missing some people, but a majority of Lizzy’s entourage before the race!

Rosalie’s presence had an obvious effect on how hard Lizzy was able to push herself. Being that she is 8 years old, Lizzy accidentally started with the 9 year olds, which meant she would have to run a complete mile as opposed to the half mile we had trained Lizzy for. That didn’t matter to Lizzy one bit. Hell, she didn’t even know she ran a mile until after the race! And she ran it in just over 9 minutes!

Then, to make things even more dramatic, Lizzy leaves for the bike, averages 11mph during her ride, comes blazing across the finish line in which we greet her with tears streaming down her face. No, this wasn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers sob fest they had after they won the NBA Championship. These were tears of pain because Lizzy fell off her bike during the ride. She didn’t quit. She didn’t hesitate. She hopped back on her bike and started pedaling again. Pedaling because she knew her friend was waiting for her at the finish line.

Upon seeing Lizzy in tears, Rosie, being the sensible person she is, feels Lizzy’s pain and begins to cry out of worry Lizzy had hurt herself. The two girls felt for each other, were there for each other, and thought about each other throughout the triathlon.

When Rosie saw Lizzy fell and cut her elbow, she became so concerned about her friend. Mamma came to the rescue though!

I promise you, we aren’t making this up.  This was a special moment for us to witness, and for Lizzy and Rosie to experience as friends. It’s heart warming. It’s awe striking. It’s inspiring. It’s real. It’s 2 people, despite their age, showing what it means to push on for someone else. They showed what it means to endure, and they showed what it meant to Keep Calm and Shine On. One inspiring the other, both inspiring us all.

Cool moment after the race. 🙂

Please keep Rosalie and her family in your prayers. Share this story around, and help to spread awareness and educate others on JRA and the different affects it can have on a child’s life.

Thank you to Ms. Brandi for being so open in helping us to better understand JRA and the affects it has on Rosie. Thank you to Rosie and Lizzy for being such passionate driven people. You girls are simply amazing.

Thank you to Lizzy’s mom, Katie, for being so thoughtful and inspiring her daughter to do the same. You kick serious ass, Katie. Keep going. 🙂

Check out some more pics below, and remember to share this around. 🙂

Thank you for reading. Just as God has a plan for Rosie, He’s got a plan for all of us. Trust it. Go out and Inspire someone today. Be there, show support, encourage, lend a hand, or motivate through action. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or where you are from, you can inspire. You can make a difference.

Remember, Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes….

How can you inspire?

One proud MeMe!
Sister Love
Sisterly Love!
Lizzy’s sister, Ella, and 2 good friends, Tay Tay and Jordan!
Lizzy and Bops!




Crossing the Line!

And yesterday, we took the girls out for Chick-fil-a and ended with Ice cream at Tutti-Frutti! Fun time!

A Triathlon. A Friendship. A Fight to a Cure…

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