If I could do anything. If I could be anyone. If I could do anything this very moment with my life-what would I do?

I would redefine the word “overwhelm”. In a positive sense, in the most beautifully positive and impactful way possible.  Because if I could find a way to put it into words and describe it, it might just describe the way I feel this very moment. I wonder if the way I feel could ever fit into one word-but I’ll try.

I am overwhelmed. If that’s the word that could describe it-at the massive amount of people who have reached out to me to tell me that they support me, they love me-that they want me to carry on.

I am overwhelmed in many ways-and I’m uncertain of how to express or what to ask for. But I think I need your help, your patience and your understanding as I figure that out.

Due to the size and undertaking of this trip and the recent impact it has had not only on the breast cancer community-but for victims of sexual assault-I am beyond overwhelmed. So I have to ask- please forgive me if I don’t know what to say. Forgive me if I don’t know how to act. In a time where so much has happened to me- I’m just trying to absorb all the good and I don’t know how that is manifesting, or looks, or is different than what it looked like before.

When I see a familiar face or someone that loves me-I don’t want what happened to me be to be the thing I see in their eyes or feel in their arms when they hold me.

Tomorrow I’m getting in my boat.  And when I get into the sleeping cabin to chart my course I could choose to remember the horrific thing that happened to me.  I could make that choice. Or, I could choose to remember the beautiful nights I’ve looked up at a massive amount of stars that I ever knew existed. In silence, in beauty, alone, safe and humbled.  I could choose to remember the nights I fell asleep after meeting survivors and supporters from all over the country-who met me, fed me, hugged me, loved me-before I stepped into Liv to rest my mind and body each night. Each beautiful night, for weeks on end.

I could focus on the overwhelming outpour of support that has come my way since I was in this boat. Since black chalk lined the cabin and doors to take finger prints from someone who took away a moment of my life I never want to re-live.

I could focus on those few terrible moments. I could let those few minutes take away more seconds, more minutes, more days and weeks and years of my life. But I won’t. Why? Because I have a choice.

And I choose to get in that boat with a smile on my face tomorrow morning. I choose to row-proudly for something I believe in. To keep moving. To get back to Chicago and celebrate the lives we’ve changed, will change-and continue to inspire others by finishing what I started.

Thank you for overwhelming me. I could not be more hopeful and excited about all that’s ahead.

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice-and I’ll say it again with more confidence beaming from every syllable than ever before…



Posted in Uncategorized by Jenn. 20 Comments

Pulling for Each Other: We Got This, Together

by Sheena Moore

A lot of you probably don’t know me. Or know me well, at least.

You’ve seen my pictures, and you’ve heard my members speak out about various things. I’m made of borrowed equipment, a polluted, dirty river, missing boat plugs, dusty erg rooms, malfunctioning boat speakers…

I’m also made of 40 or so strongly beating hearts. Hearts that pounded when they felt a lump. Hearts that sank when they heard the words “chemo” and “reconstruction.” And hearts that sang when they got in a boat and felt it.

I’m made of sweat, and nerves, and triumph. I’m made of frustration, bad days, and catching crabs. Pulling together gets mentioned a lot.

I’m the ROW team.

And I have some amazing people pulling for me. Pulling with me.

When I first met Jenn, I (not kidding) immediately thought, “Oh god. Gross. A happy person.” A week later, I found myself dragging my lazy butt out of bed to meet her at the lagoon every morning at 6 to row in a double at LPBC. The next week I showed up at ROW practice and never really stopped after that.

I have been a ROW coach for over three years now, and Jenn is one of my dearest, dearest friends. I’m not ready to talk about what she went through earlier this week, in any capacity. But as the person who was lucky enough to be trusted with Jenn’s “baby,” the ROW team, while she’s away, I thought it would be important to tell everybody a bit about exactly who she’s doing it for, and some of the reason she pulls so hard for this team.

Rowing is reserved for the toughest of the tough, people who must train their bodies to exude grace, even when essentially completing a deadlift with every race stroke. The women who join the ROW team seem to be able to sense that about rowing. For many of them, you’d never guess they had cancer unless they told you. From the outside, you’d have no idea what kind of a fight they’d been through to be who they are now — whether they’ve been cancer-free for twenty years, five days, or whether they fight the fight every day.

As an outsider looking in, it seems that these are all the type of women who don’t want to sit in a circle and cry about what was dealt to them in life. They’re problem solvers, they’re active, they’re strong, they’re smart, and they want to come to terms with their feelings in a place with like-minded women where they can equally keep to themselves and leave frustrations and grief on the erg or in the boat, and simultaneously have an amazingly strong support network.

Jenn and I personally strive to treat every single woman who hops on the erg or walks through the gate at the rowing site as an athlete. All of our rowers come to the team with a different attitude in regards to health, weight, cardio fitness level, strength level — and ROW makes many of them see themselves as an “athlete” for the first time in their lives. We’re very careful to not treat them like they’re sick or have been sick — they set their own limits (hopefully at a level higher than they thought!), and all of the coaches then respect that. But ROW is about being an athlete first.

These women radiate inner poise, beauty, and strength that I feel myself absorb at every single practice. I seriously hope that I can even manage to give them back a part of what they, and Jenn, have given me over the years. (I’m terrible at expressing that).

All of this sparked from one woman’s idea. It’s taken it’s own shape and had its ups and downs. But the reciprocal relationship between this team and what Jenn is out there doing is intrinsically and cosmically connected. She was hurt, we were hurt. She has a good day, we have a good day. She feels like she’s flying on a bike, we fly with her.

Doubles for life, Jenn. I miss you and I can’t wait for you to come home safe.

- Sheena

Posted in Feature by Brenda. 3 Comments

Row4ROW Trip Update

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

I have always tried to be transparent and honest about the obstacles of this trip in the hope that my openness and vulnerability might give someone strength or inspiration in their fight against cancer, or in pursuing a dream.

I know that I had a choice in telling people about the details of my attack, particularly that it was a sexual assault. To go through this at all, let alone publicly, is extremely difficult. I chose to talk about it in the hope that someone might be able to provide more information about the person who did this to me.

Thank you for the endless amounts of support, prayers, and love. Please know that I am in the best of hands–with my family and in the protection of the Michigan State Police.

I still believe that there are more good people in the world than bad.

I still believe that life is a gift, even when it’s scary and unfair. I still believe that life offers us the privilege, the opportunity, and the responsibility, to give something back, even when people try to take things away from us.

Regarding the trip, one thing hasn’t changed: I’ve still got this. But the trip plan will change in a few ways to ensure my safety.

Most importantly, I will no longer be alone.

Tomorrow, Liv will be trailered to a secure location in Muskegon, Michigan until I can continue the trip on water sometime next week. From that point to Chicago we can ensure my safety on water since we’re confident that there are enough harbors and enough resources and volunteers to make it possible. Because we are unsure that I can be kept safe on the water in the miles between where I am currently and the point at which I will start rowing again, I will tackle them on land.

With thanks to a generous donor and the support of amazing volunteers, later this week I will continue traveling Lake Michigan’s perimeter by bicycle. A support crew will accompany me and ensure my safety day in and day out. When I get to Muskegon, Liv and I will reunite and keep pushing to get to Chicago sometime in mid-August, as we had originally planned.

My chin is up, my eyes are open, and we’re going to get this show back on the road (then water).


Posted in Uncategorized by Jenn. Comments Off