I first wrote about Jessica (Wallace) Sergeant in 2009. She was one of the most inspirational athletes I’ve ever written about in all my years of sports writing.
In 2007, Sergeant was diagnosed with bone cancer in her jaw and doctors took a bone from her fibula to reconstruct her jaw.
She also had a malignant melanoma on her face and then had half of her lower left lung removed when cancer was found there.
She was diagnosed with Li-Fraumeni, which is the mutation in her p53 suppressor gene. A rare form of cancer, there are only 400 known families that carry the trait.
Sergeant, then 28, overcame all of her adversities to successfully run as a member of Sauk Valley Community College’s national qualifying team in 2009.
On Nov. 1, the cancer took its final toll on Sergeant, who passed away at the age of 32. She won the race of life for always having a positive outlook on life, determined not to let the cancer which riddled her body to lead her from having a normal life.
Sergeant said if her life was summed up in three words it would be, “totally worth it.”
After being diagnosed in 2007, Sergeant returned to running in March 2008 in the Walleye 5K Run in Spring Valley. The former Bureau Valley Storm runner followed that with a half marathon in Springfield.
“It’s a great feeling and a godsend I am back running now,” Sergeant said after the race. “I have great friends and have really been blessed.”
Bureau Valley track and cross country coach Dale Donner said Sergeant left her mark in many ways.
“Jessica was a hard worker and a great leader for our program,” he said. “She enjoyed competing and the camaraderie of cross country and track. She never complained or made excuses and always left practice with a smile. Most importantly I will remember her most for her great personality. She was a true gem of our community.”
Jessica was a true inspiration to us all. While she may have never won a race in her life, she won the race of life. It was indeed, well worth it.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org