Jan Beck will be representing USA at the World Transplant Games next month in Perth Australia. It’s a long flight to Australia, but the journey that has brought Jan to this point was even longer. Jan had been diagnosed with cirrhosis, but it wasn’t until after she returned home from a cruise in Spring 2012 that her body “crashed” as she retells it.
During this time, Jan was the caregiver for her aging mom and her husband’s health was failing, too. Jan did not have time to deal with her worsening health. But that is when fate can step in and make you take notice. In September of that same year, Jan’s sister Sharon moved to Arizona temporarily to take over some of Jan’s caregiver responsibilities and allow her time to sort through her own health concerns. In October, she was listed with Mayo Hospital for a transplant and 3 weeks later, Jan received a liver and a new lease on life.
However, the road was not getting smoother anytime soon. Over the next year, Jan lost both her mother and husband. Thankfully she had the support of her family, especially her sister and son, to help her regain her strength and grieve her losses.
Part of her path to a healthy life was joining the liver support group at Mayo. Through that group, Jan met Dan Baran and Anna Tolley who introduced her to the Transplant Team AZ and Transplant Community Alliance. Once able, Jan joined Team AZ as part of its bowling and darts teams. Not only did she join, she soon became the Team’s top contender in both sports.
The Games are filled with fun and competitive activities, but they go much deeper than that. Jan considers her teammates her second family. By going to the Games, Jan has had the opportunity to meet many recipients from all walks of life, who are bound by their common journey and their gratitude for each day on this Earth. “The ones who truly touch my heart are the donor families and the love they express towards recipients, said Jan. “The families are so thankful to meet recipients. They view us as apart of their loved one living on and therefore an extension of their family.”
At Jan’s first Games in Ohio, she was forever impacted by a donor mom who told her the story of her young son who saved the life of 7 other children. She was fortunate enough to meet all seven of her son’s recipients. “As she shared her son’s story I was moved to tears,” recalls Jan. “In that moment, she began to comfort me. I was in awe of her care, love and compassion for me as a recipient.” Jan continued that it reminded her of the kind of selfless and loving sacrifice a donor family makes the hour their loved one passes. “I felt that she was continuing to pour out that same selfless love as she met recipients from all over the country.”
Since joining the Team, Jan has competed in 3 US Games and 1 World Games. Last year, the US Games were held in San Diego where the Arizona Team won 67 medals total. Jan won 5 of those medals. One gold and 1 silver in darts and 2 golds in bowling. One with Ed Ozier in the mixed doubles and another gold in doubles with her friend Anna Tolly who introduced her to the Team. In April, Jan will take her skills to Perth to compete in bowling and darts and attempt to bring home medals for the US Transplant Team.
Jan is sure to meet more inspiring recipients and donor families in her travels to Perth. Jan proclaims “they are the reason we are here.” As with every Games she has attended, Jan’s trusted travel companion and personal cheerleader Sharon will be by her side cheering her on again. Join me in wishing Jan a big congratulations and best wishes in Perth. We can’t wait to hear all about your adventure.