Dan Jaworski sat in the doctor's office, his heart racing as he braced for the results of his cognitive tests. It was October 16, 2019, and at just 54, Dan was grappling with some memory lapses, prompting a check-up. What he didn't expect was the diagnosis that day.
"Mild Cognitive Impairment likely leading to Dementia," the doctor announced. Those words hit Dan like a ton of bricks. Alzheimer's? At his age? The diagnosis loomed over him, heavy with implications for his and his family's future.
But Dan's spirit wasn't one to succumb to despair. Right after stepping out of that office, he made a life-changing decision. He was going to race in the Kona IRONMAN. He connected with the IRONMAN Foundation, fueled by a fire to show that this diagnosis wouldn’t dictate his life. He'd always dreamed of competing in the IRONMAN World Championship, imagining he’d be 75 and maybe even snag a win in his age group, almost by default.
Fast forward three years, and the weight of the diagnosis was a constant companion. But Dan knew he couldn't put off Kona any longer. With Alzheimer's mortality rates what they are, he understood the urgency to seize life.
His training became his sanctuary. Dan focused on what he could control – his exercise, diet, brain engagement, and sleep. But it wasn’t just about him. He reached out to others touched by Alzheimer's, dedicating each of the 140 miles in Kona to someone battling the disease, caring for a loved one, or mourning a loss to it. In this way, he brought 140 people, including those he considered angels, along with him to Kona.
Dan's journey to Kona was nothing short of epic and inspiring. He aims to be the first survivor of Alzheimer's – a simple yet profound goal. Crossing the finish line at the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship was a significant step toward that dream, alongside 140 friends who shared his journey.
After announcing my last IRONMAN race, my finish line rally towel was auctioned off. Dan knew he had to have it. He won the auction, and now, that signed towel, a symbol of his unyielding spirit, hangs beside his bike trainer, fueling his dreams for Kona 2040, when he’ll be 75.
The odds might say otherwise, but Dan's indomitable spirit rejects that notion. He's a daily reminder to us all: create your own positive affirmations, and don't cheat yourself out of life's full potential. Dan battles on, training hard, living fully, and embracing each day with vigor. Sure, there are moments of doubt, sometimes a memory slip here and there. But Dan's not alone. We're all rooting for him, and we're confident, Dan, that you’ll be taking home that age division win at 75.