Friday, September 15 2017
“‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak
And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up
But you gotta search within you
And gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you
And get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face, and collapse.”
-Eminem, “Til I Collapse”
On October 5th, as Stephanie Jandrys steps into the ring, months of sacrifice, hard work, and dedication under her belt, she’ll do so as the lyrics above fill the space around her. It’s a powerful song, one that I’ve listened to countless times, that I could probably recite most of the lyrics to off the top of my head. It’s forceful, unrelenting, an anthem for those for whom the option of quitting isn’t on the table, never was. For those who’d collapse before ever throwing in the towel.
Hearing Stephanie’s story, her appreciation for this song recontextualizes the song for me, gives it a new meaning, a more literal meaning. Those eight lines perfectly encapsulate the struggle that those who Stephanie Jandrys aims to help by fighting and fundraising endure. For those afflicted with cancer, those are the two choices.
“I’ve already had my toughest fight,” Stephanie says, “[Haymakers] isn’t anything in comparison. There haven’t been any hits worse than my body had felt prior.”
When she was twenty-three, Stephanie found herself feeling constantly lethargic and sick all the time. Initially her doctors chalked it up to the consequences of the social nightlife that so many people in their early twenties enjoy, but after a few exams she was sent to MGH. There, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 Uterine Cancer.
“Both sides of my family were riddled with cancer,” Stephanie says, “We didn’t realize that my Nana actually had the same diagnosis as me, but hadn’t told anyone.”
Stephanie had immediate surgery. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation. She had doctors remove her eggs and have them frozen. You can see in her eyes and hear in her voice how important becoming a mother one day is to Stephanie. It’s clear as day when she talks about it.
“If I am ever blessed enough to become a mother, hopefully that decision will prevent any complications,” she says, “But today I am officially in remission. And I feel great.”
Stephanie looks great too, which is to say that if her Haymakers fight were today, I think she’d be ready to go. She’s tall, with long arms and looks strong, not in a “cross-fit muscular” way, but in the way someone who is very active does. For example, if a thief stole an old woman’s purse, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Stephanie was the one who chased him down and got it back. She looks like someone who would be good at boxing. If she told you that she was a power puncher, you’d believe her.
“I’m definitely a power puncher,” she tells me.
I believe her.
“I have always been an athlete. I was mid-treatment in 2014 and had gained some weight due to the prednisone I was on, so I picked up fitness boxing, which was more cardio based, more fun and showy. I took to boxing right away. It was a good way to relieve stress and clear my head. Fitness boxing is really just you against the bag, mostly stational. So while I have some boxing background, for Haymakers I had actually picked up a lot of bad habits.”
Stephanie is now a trainer and the Assistant General Manager at TITLE Boxing Club in Saugus and is training for Haymakers at The Way in Woburn.
“It has been the best experience. Every fighter has to raise $5,000 and so far we have raised over $17,000. It’s just phenomenal.”
“I’m not just fighting for myself,” Stephanie says, “I’m fighting for my Oncologist, for the nurses who, at your lowest of lows, greet you with those smiles, a cousin that I lost to suicide, and to my father, who passed away when I was eighteen.”
Stephanie wipes away tears as she mentions this group of people, those she lost and those who did all that they could to make sure that no one lost her.
“When I’m in there [training], I talk to my cousin and Dad and get in a different head space. It helps me remember why it is that I’m doing this. It’s been good. I’ve cried a lot,” she says, “My father was big into rock music, so when I do strength and conditioning, I keep hard rock on. He liked Pearl Jam. My father was an athlete and was so proud to have a daughter that was also an athlete. Me doing Haymakers is exactly what he would want. He definitely would have wanted this.”
Stephanie’s mother, on the other hand, feels a bit differently about all this.
“My mother is not going to be coming to the fight,” Stephanie laughs, “She’ll support from afar. She cried when I told her I was doing this. She understands why. She gets it. But she can’t watch her baby get hit. She’s like ‘I will not sit in an arena with all these people yelling ‘knock her out!’ It’s my daughter!’”
As for her own fears about the prospect of getting knocked out, they don’t seem to exist.
“I can’t say that I’m scared of anything, because if I lived my life like that after all I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be living. If I lose, I’m going to want to end on a win, so I’m going to fight again. And if I win, I’m going to go on a run with it. Oh, I’m not done after this. Once you get the feeling, the hunger for it. It’s a pride thing. I’m going to keep going. Until someone knocks me off my feet.”
Or until she collapses.
But, knowing Stephanie Jandrys, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting on either thing to happen.