Hear it from Jacqui:
As a young adult I faced many hardships, first getting Bacterial Meningitis at the age of 23, and then again at the age of 28. No one thought I would make it out of the hospital alive, but I survived that horrific disease only to find out my battle had only just begun. . .
With seizures starting at the age of 35, my body began to change -- numbness and spasms in my legs, stomach, head and neck. Little by little my spine became abnormal, moving into what is referred to as the swayback position. The fluctuating severe muscle spasms, progressive stiffness, rigidity and dystonia slowly took over my body, from my chest to my lower extremities, ultimately leaving me wheelchair bound. It took four years to diagnose the extremely rare progressive neurological disorder known as “Stiff Person’s Syndrome". Unfortunately, there is still no cure, but I wasn't about to let that stop me.
Despite the hand I had been dealt, I continued to compete in marathons, the grueling 26.2 miles that runners have come to love. I enjoy the challenge, love being outdoors, and love meeting new people from around the world. I have competed in 80 marathons, 6 triathlons, and countless other races, with many more to come. I ran 17 marathons, pushed my walker in three, and completed the rest in my racing wheelchair.
Since I had established a successful career in marathons I felt I needed to challenge myself further due to the continuous progression of my neurological disorder.
In 2007, I earned a spot on the USA Wheelchair Curling Team. At the 2008 World Championships in Sursee, Switzerland, Team USA won a Bronze medal and competed at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver. When we returned home, I decided I wanted to get involved in Summer sports, so I completed my first New York City Olympic-distance triathlon in June of 2010, where I hold the record. That's when I fell in love with triathlons!
Fast forward to 2013, when I competed at the Paratriathlon National Championship and won the National Title, earning my spot on the USA Team. I later went on to compete in the World Championships at the ITU Paratriathlon in London, England. Elated to bring home the Bronze medal, I knew something didn't feel right with my body. It was at that point that I was diagnosed with throat and thyroid cancer. Undergoing surgery and various treatments, I was forced to take the season off, but I wasn't ready to give up on life...or my competitive career.
So, I decided to sign up for an Ironman triathlon. Not only was this a perfect distraction from the pain I was dealing with daily, but it helped to keep me motivated and in the right frame of mind.
Currently, I'm training for Nationals, working to earn a spot on the USA Rowing Team. The National Championships will be held in July in my beautiful home state of New Jersey. My dream is to represent my Country in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. I'll also be training for my second Ironman triathlon in November of 2015. As far as I'm concerned, nothing can or will stop me from achieving my goals.