Running takes mental determination no matter the distance. An athlete needs to train physically and be prepared emotionally. Janae Rowe had both the physical and mental strength to compete starting at a young age, but as a young adult everything changed.
When a woman is pregnant you often hear them say, “All I want is a healthy baby.” Janae Rowe’s mom got that wish. Her baby grew into a healthy child -- growing up playing a lot of sports and constantly running to catch up with her big brother. Janae, a Senior Executive Assistant at Adventist Health, loves all kinds of sports and helped form the first women’s flag football team at Sacramento Adventist Academy. The teenager from Foresthill took her good grades and active lifestyle on to college. That’s when life took an unexpected turn.
“I got really sick one summer and was in and out of the ER and ended up in bed for two months,” said Janae. At first, doctors thought it was mono but then they said they didn’t know. Janae had one year left in college and her doctors told her she was too ill to finish but giving up wasn’t an option for Janae. She went back to school and graduated with honors from Pacific Union College outside St. Helena. After graduation she moved back home and relied heavily on the support of her family because she was too weak to take care of herself.
After a year of relying on her faith, Janae believed the doctors would find a cure so she accepted a job at Adventist Health. However, her health got progressively worse and it became more difficult to hide the symptoms of severe weakness and fatigue. Despite the continued deterioration of her health, there were upswings. During one of those times, she met an avid outdoorsman – and then she married him. And yet the disease continued to progress. Doctors thought it could be MS, Lupus or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It continued to be a mystery and she continued to digress -- leading to Janae quitting her job.
Janae’s mom found a Chronic Fatigue treatment center in Las Vegas. After nine months and $40,000 of treatments not covered by insurance, she went home. The treatment didn’t work. More specialists, more tests more failed treatments. After seven years of fighting to remain mobile, Janae said one of her doctors told her that it was time for her to start facing reality that she would never be well again, needed a handicap placard and would most likely end up in a wheelchair the rest of her life. “That was the worst day of my life,” said Janae.
Janae went back to Adventist Health working only an hour or two at a time before having to go home to bed. Although she never brought her wheelchair to work, walking was extremely difficult and she used a wheelchair when she would spend any extended time moving. After continued support from co-workers, family, and friends, Janae went on a trip to Guatemala where a man said it looked like she had Lyme disease. She told him the doctors had already ruled out Lyme Disease, but he encouraged her to watch the documentary, “Under our Skin.” This movie was enough to lead her to seek out more intense treatment.
Janae went to a clinic in Reno where she was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and underwent multiple IV treatments, shots, blood oxygenation treatments and much more. There was a time when her heart stopped, but doctors were able to bring her back. When the treatment was over, Janae was warned she would feel awful for about two months and she did. However, after that she slowly improved and was able to function without a wheelchair.
Sadly Janae’s marriage didn’t survive the difficult times of illness and treatment. “Losing my husband was devastating and but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from fighting to get my health back,” said Janae. After several months of setbacks, she slowly started healing in every way and after six months felt strong enough to start gentle exercises.
In May 2015, Adventist Health put together a fitness challenge for its employees that included going to the gym at least three days a week. Janae took that challenge and let the trainer know about her situation. He took her illness into account and let Janae work at her own pace. “I was terrified that I would fall in front of my co-workers or make myself worse but my co-workers and friends watched out for me and I kept getting better,” said Janae. It got so much better that Janae won a running competition and also ran a 6:30-minute mile on the treadmill.
All of this progress lead Janae to run the CIM in early December as part of an Adventist Health relay team. “I’ve watched and cheered people on for years at the CIM finish line. I made a promise to myself that if I ever got well, I would cross that finish line,” said Janae. And, she did just that. Janae ran 5.7 miles in 50 minutes. Her team finished the race in under four hours.
Janae now enjoys running, backpacking, camping and hiking with her friends and boyfriend. Her handicap placard expired this June and she traded it in for a Yamaha FZ8 motorcycle. Ten years of severe illness and treatment will always be on her mind. She says the future is uncertain so she lives life to the fullest. When asked why she runs Janae responded, “I run because I can. When my legs are aching and my lungs are burning, I recall the many years of illness and my days in a wheelchair. I remember lying on the ground hopelessly fighting for my next breath. I remember fighting to stand up. I remember the doctor who told me I would be permanently disabled. And then I remember my friends Angie, Charlie, Courtney and Greyson who are still fighting for their lives and I think about what they would give to have this amazing gift…so I run harder. I run to give them hope.”
Janae’s goal for 2016 is to run a 6-minute mile and catch up to the relay teams from Sonora and Lodi in next year’s CIM.