6-5-1@SPARTA interview with Jamie Whitmore

XTERRA World Champion.

5 time XTERRA USA National Champion.

Mother of twins.

Cancer survivor.

The word “inspiring” gets thrown around too easily these days.

But there is no other way to describe Jamie Whitmore.

The winner of an XTERRA World Championship & 5 XTERRA National Championship, life was looking great for Jamie Whitmore until the World Championship race in Maui, Hawaii in October 2007 when she started to experience cramping in left leg during the race & sciatic pain in her left leg that night.

Fast forward 3 short months to March 2008 & Jamie was, by then, crippled with numbness in her leg, unable to walk or even stand and pain so severe so was unable to sleep for more than 15-20mins at a time.

After several misdiagnosis, she was eventually diagnosed with a rare form of cancer but her doctors needed to operate in order to find out where it was originating from.

Surgery (her first) found a grapefruit-sized tumour in her hip which was removed along with part of her sciatic nerve (which was dead as the tumour had cut off the blood supply to it). The death, and subsequent removal of part of her sciatic nerve meant that Jamie would never be able to control her foot and that this former World Champion would never run again (or so her doctors thought).

Following surgery, Jamie underwent rehabilitation and physical therapy so she could learn to walk again.

But during therapy, and only 2 months after the tumour was removed, not only had the cancer returned but that it had quickly re-grown to the size of the first tumour.

Her next surgery saw the removal of the (second) tumour & anything touching it – which included her left glute muscles (basically all the muscles in her left butt), part of her tailbone & various nerves including one controlling her bladder).

But through all this, Jamie was determined to get back on her bike again.

After surgery she developed a kidney infection (which almost killed her) and which meant chemotherapy treatment had to be postponed.

Her next surgery was to remove the drain that had been in her back since the second surgery (which was needed as the nerve controlling her bladder had been removed). This required a kidney transplant to move her left kidney to the right hand side of her pelvic area.

Soon after the kidney transplant, she became unwell; developing nausea & being unable to keep food down & ended up in the emergency ward where they ran various tests fearing that the cancer had returned only to discover that she was pregnant – with twins!

Dreams of getting back on her bike again had to be put on hold, especially as she was admitted to hospital for bed rest from week 27 of her pregnancy.

Finally after the birth of 2 healthy babies & months of being a mother to not just one but two newborn babies, Jamie not only returned to riding her bike (running now being out of the question) but she returned to racing.

Only 3 weeks after getting back on her mountain bike for the first time in 3 years, Jamie & her husband entered an XTERRA short course race (sprint distance) in which she walked the 5km run leg using a leg brace (to support her paralysed left leg) and crutches.

And then after a bit more training, she returned to race at the XTERRA National Championships in Tahuo – a race she had previously won 5 times – almost 3 years to the day since she last raced it.

The next time you think to yourself “I can’t”, I want you to think of the remarkable story, and woman, that is Jamie Whitmore. I am absolutely honoured to welcome her to Sparta!

1/.  It must have been a huge struggle for you to maintain your motivation during your treatment & rehabilitation. What is the biggest challenge to your motivation & how did you (or do you) overcome that?

Motivation was never an issue.  I have a strong faith and believe everything that happens is for a reason . . . a greater purpose in doing God’s work.  I was motivated to show people that life is not over because you are disabled. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have bad days, it just means that I was able to overcome them quickly and continue moving forward.  I don’t believe in feeling sorry for myself because it won’t change the situation.  You have to take what you have and make the best of it.

2/.   You raced the XTERRA national championships for the first time after your cancer treatment on crutches & with a brace on your paralysed leg? What inspired you to return to (mainstream) competition when you knew you could never compete at the same high level again?

I wanted people to know that triathlon is not about winning.  It is a passion and a lifestyle.  It is a great was to stay healthy. I raced because no one thought I would ever be able to again . . . . I wanted people to see that I could. . . . Did I wish I was doing it a a pro – Of course!  I miss that part of my life but as a competitive person I have found new challenges.  There are a lot of people out there with disabilities.  I want them to know that they can do anything an able bodied person can do!

 3/. Your goal this year has been to qualify for a spot on the American team to compete in cycling in the Paralympics? Firstly did you make it? And what is a typical training week for you now and how much rehabilitation/strengthening work does it include?

There was an outside shot I might be able to make the team but I knew coming in I was late to the game . . . The spot was given to a hand cycle. I am happy for the selection of the team.  As much as I wanted to be part of the London Paralympic team I know I have a lot of room for improvement.  I’ve only been back on the bike for a year and I am getting better and stronger every time I ride.

 I don’t do any rehab any more . . . I just get on my bike and ride.  I am able to train about 10-12hrs on a good week and about 6hrs on a busy week.  Raising twins boys and training athletes takes up a lot of my time!

 4/. Who is the person (or people) who have had the most influence on your sporting success?

That is a good question.  I believe there have been a few people.  The biggest has been God!  He gave me this talent and I wanted to Glorify him through it.  Every time I race I know I am out there because of him.

 My husband who taught me how to ride a mountain bike.  He has always pushed me in the area and believed in me.

 Ned Overend has been a role model.  Everything about him makes me aspire to be my best.  He is humble and gracious – everything I tried to be as an athlete.

5/.   If you hadn’t become a professional triathlete, what would you do and why?

I would have been a US Marshal or Private Investigator.  I wanted to chase criminals and travel the world!

6/.  If you could go back in time & give one piece of advice to yourself when you were 18, what advice would that be?

I would tell myself to enjoy every moment a little more.  Appreciate what I have and not worry about tomorrow so much!

To hear Jamie tell her story in her own (uplifting) words, check out the interview with her on Competitor Radio here.

Jamie is proudly sponsored by Cannondale, Monavie, Clif Bar, Michellin, Profile, Squadra and Spinergy. You can follow Jamie’s remarkable life on the new website (still under construction) at www.cancersux.org.

Thanks for your time Jamie & my best wishes for your campaign to win a spot on the team for the Paralympics in Rio in 2016. I’ll certainly be cheering for you!

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