The Heart of a Warrior

Graphic created by Sammy DaGrossa
The heart is the strongest muscle in our bodies. We all know that. It is what keeps us alive. It is what drives us, what pumps blood through our veins, what keeps us alive.
I was in Vegas at the Olympia this year, something I had my heart set on for a few months. The will of a heart makes so many things possible. I wanted to see my friends from my new found family at the Super Gym compete and cheer them on – Evan Centopani, Jillian Reville and Jamie Pinder.
On the night of the Meet the Olympians, I made my way through the several athlete booths to find the familiar faces and make sure I snapped some photos. Jillian Reville was at the very end of the right wing of the concierge area where they had the booths set up all over. She was sitting quietly at a table next to Phil Heath, whose line you couldn't see the end to.
Jillian and husband Donny after prejudging at the
Dallas Europa, where Jillian earned her O qualification.
Jillian and I met eyes, and as usual, she waved and jumped to hug me. If there is any one woman I know that always seems happy or positive regardless of the circumstances, her name is Jillian Reville. Her surprised eyes, her smile, the energy and joy she felt was transferred immediately in the air. It was like a festive bubble she brought me into, where I was invited to celebrate with her one of her proudest moments: getting on the Olympia stage.
Jillian and I had exchanged our hellos and in the most nonchalant of tones, she tells me her vision on her left eye is blurry...almost completely gone. She tells me she just woke up and she couldn't see very well. She smiled the entire time while I stood there in shock, mouth wide open, looking over at her supportive husband Donny nodding in agreement.
Massive amounts of swag.
Jillian had trained her heart and soul into this Olympia prep like nothing I have ever seen from her. Despite her inability to see from one eye, she managed to get up on that Olympia stage, rock her routine like no one’s business, and place and admirable 6th place at the very first Women’s Physique Olympia. What an amazing story and honor! It is, actually, but the fact is, that’s not where the warrior in her even shows up or where the story ends.
The Olympia came and went. The jet-lag had worn out of most of us on the East Coast, and we have gone to our typical daily routines.
One Friday afternoon, October 4th, to be exact, I received a phone call from Jillian on my way to picking up my daughter from school. Her voice…there was something about her voice that I already didn’t like. She sounded …different. But still, her cheerfulness managed to break through that worrisome feeling I felt coming from her.
That’s when she disclosed to me what was actually going on with her and the reason for her almost gone vision during the Olympia weekend.
Group shot! 
Jillian had suffered a mini-stroke, something she didn’t find out about until she returned home and went to the hospital. After tests were done, it was also revealed that she has a hole in her heart. Still I hear the very positive and cheerful voice on the other end of the line while I am shaking and holding myself from bursting into tears. I did. I broke down. I am now as I write this.
The congenital condition Jillian was born with is a birth defect called called Patent Foreman Ovale (PFO). One out of five people are born with this condition, and normally, the hole closes on its own. On Jillian, it didn’t, causing her stroke. She is due to have open heart surgery in the next coming weeks to repair and close up the hole in her heart.
If you think about how strong someone’s will, determination and drive has to be in order to overcome obstacles and do something that they are passionate about, and how the mind and the heart are connected into achieving those goals, there isn’t a better example than this.
A warrior: a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness.
Heart of a Warrior: Jillian Reville.
Even in her wedding dress she strikes the famous Jillian pose

Jillian at her wedding reception this past weekend.
From right to left: Sandra and Fakhri Mubarak, and Jillian. Sitting down Kenny Wallach,
Jerry and Darin Montanari and me.
To hear Jillian's interview on Jason Adams' radio show you can go here:

1 comment:

  1. There is sunshine wherever she goes, I love that about her.