It was a rainy, grey day in Charlotte when I met Britt Yett at Amelie’s in Carmel Corners. It was also the second anniversary of the death of her best friend, Jen Pagani, an accomplished triathlete who founded Go Jen Go after her breast cancer diagnosis.
When she told me that it was the anniversary I told her that we could reschedule it if she was not up to it that day. She blew into her coffee and gently waved me off. She wanted to talk about about Go Jen Go and she wanted talk about her friend.
Britt, clad in a hot pink and green Go Jen Go shirt, told me that Jen loved cloudy, overcast days. "She would have loved a day like today. So, I think that it is fitting that we are talking about her."
I had specific questions written down that I was going to ask her, but I decided to scratch those. Instead I just said, "Tell me about Jen. Tell me about your best friend."
Britt and Jen met after her breast cancer diagnosis. Their children went to the same preschool and after hearing that she was battling cancer, she, along with other parents, took the Paganis meals. Figuring that Jen, a fitness trainer and Iron Man tri-athlete, was probably sick of casseroles and lasagnes Britt made her chicken skewers and other lighter options. Jen sent her a thank you note that said it was her favorite meal. From there, their friendship was born.
Jen Pagani married her college sweetheart and she was the devoted and loving mother to two boys. Even when she was in the throes of chemo, she rarely missed a game or a school event. Britt said that even if Jen was having a rough day, when her boys came through the door from school, she transformed into a smiling, beaming mom. Jen made a choice in how she was going to deal with her cancer diagnosis. She didn’t wallow. She rarely complained. She was an elite athlete. Jen could handle pain. Britt said, "Jen taught herself and us how to fight for her."
As with any great friendships there were times when Britt and Jen disagreed. One such time was when they went on a special trip to Moab, Utah. Jen wanted to meditate and watch the sun rise one morning, but Britt wasn’t feeling it. "I stomped and huffed around because she had dragged me out of bed and it was four degrees - four!"
It was obvious to me that Britt missed her best friend deep in her soul. She got choked up a couple of times as we talked. When I got to the car, I cried. I ached for both of them but was blown away by their friendship and grace. I texted many of my friends and let them know how much they meant to me and how much I loved them.
I plan to join Britt and many others to celebrate Jen’s legacy and the beauty of never ending friendship by participating in the Run Jen Run 5k at Symphony Park on March 5. Consider grabbing your best friend and joining us. For more race information visit http://runjenrun.racesonline.com/register.
Go Jen Go
Jen Pagani was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in 2007. Jen knew that she should expect physical, emotional and financial burdens. What she didn’t expect was the incredible amount of support that she received from family, friends and even complete strangers. The outpouring of grace and love she received profoundly changed Jen. She and her husband decided that they wanted to help others fighting breast cancer.
She wrote on her blog, "The support I’ve received has added more to my life than cancer has taken away."