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IRONMAN Dan, Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment, Shares His Biggest Bucket List Item: “There is No Day Like Today”

IRONMAN Dan, Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment, Shares His Biggest Bucket List Item: “There is No Day Like Today”
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February 12, 2021
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On October 16, 2019, Dan Jaworski’s life changed when he was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at age 54.

Dan Jaworski’s diagnosis story stemmed from a 2019 family trip. “When we returned home, my wife Julie and our kids said I’d been forgetting stuff throughout our vacation. I had no idea what they were talking about.” Shortly after, Dan was driving with Julie to a small college near home, a place he’d been hundreds of times. “As I was driving, suddenly I looked at Julie and said: ‘I don't know how to get there.’”

That moment set Dan up on a cascade of doctor’s visits and tests that proved consistent with an MCI diagnosis. “I had always been bad with directions and some areas of memory, but I didn't realize that I was showing signs of MCI. I wanted to know what I was dealing with so I could keep moving forward in the best way possible.”

Dan’s Bucket List

After his diagnosis, Dan focused on ways to continue living life to its fullest. “One of my longtime bucket list goals has been to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, which involves 140.6 combined miles of swimming, biking and running. Due to multiple surgeries, I always thought my best shot to qualify would be when I reached age 75, as one of the only ones in my age bracket.

Instead of waiting, within hours of my diagnosis, I contacted The IRONMAN Foundation, and I was lucky to secure a place in the Kona race this coming October! I’m so grateful for this opportunity. I’m 54, and 75 is now at the far end of the matrix when I look at my best life. Because dementia is a cruel thief, stealing everything from your memory to basic cognitive functions, it’s unclear how many of those years will be good ones. I’m choosing to get started on everything I want to do now. There is no day like today.”

As Dan faces today with all of his passion, he reminds others that although you can't choose what happens to you, you can choose how you respond. “Though the outlook isn’t positive, my perspective is. I continue to be full of gratitude as I attack this disease with everything I have, following the Mediterranean diet, prioritizing good sleep, exercising daily. Even if I can’t change my diagnosis, when my body feels good, my mind does better." 
 

Dedicating Miles to People Facing Tough Times

Competing in the Kona IRONMAN is the first personal goal Dan focused on after facing his diagnosis. His next goal was to find a way to help both himself and others facing dementia. “I realized that I could combine my participation in IRONMAN with fundraising and connecting with the Alzheimer’s community as part of the Alzheimer's Association The Longest Day, an event where participants across the world fight the darkness of Alzheimer's through an activity of their choice to raise funds and awareness for the care, support and research efforts of the Association. I knew that is what I had to do. As I began hearing more and more tough stories from people facing MCI, Alzheimer's and other dementia, I wanted to do something for people like me. It was as I began connecting with more people that I realized how many other families are working toward the same goal: a day when we have an effective treatment or cure Alzheimer’s.” Dan has already raised nearly $30,000 to help support Alzheimer's care, support, and research through his The Longest Day fundraiser.

Through his training for IRONMAN and his fundraising, Dan wants his kids and wife to see his strength, that he can “take the punch and keep moving forward.” The IRONMAN course starts with a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and ends with a 26.2 mile run. In celebration of the people who have touched his life, Dan has dedicated each mile of his IRONMAN to 140 different people, including people like himself, who are facing the journey ahead and living their best lives while facing a dementia diagnosis.

And that last mile of the IRONMAN is a pretty special one: “I am dedicating my last mile to my amazing wife, Julie, who is my everything,” Dan shares.
 

Living with Great Purpose

Dan says he is in a good spot right now, trying to live with his headlights on low. “With the low beams on, we take it day by day and celebrate all the wins. No matter what hurdles you face in life, you can choose to go long and strong or give up,” he says. “I choose to be totally committed to being present and my best self; if there is a lever to be pulled, I will crank it. I keep myself going by keeping good habits, and by doing the good small things over and over. I’m hoping my consistency keeps me at my best self for as long as possible.

I find inspiration from the following quote. I truly believe that any time is a good time to join a cause, to volunteer, to make a difference for those who come after us. We all have our part, and our voices are stronger together.”

“Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

About: Learn more about IRONMAN Dan’s fundraising progress and who he is dedicating each mile of his IRONMAN to on his fundraising page for The Longest Day. 

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