By: Jessie Laney
My Legacy. Have you sat back and thought about what that would be? Often it is something we reflect on later in life as we get older. But for one woman, that time came a lot sooner in life.
Meet Jen Pagani
She was a competitor, she was a fighter, she was a two-time iron man and a vivacious personality. What she loved most was being wife to Joe and mom to Rocco and Luca. For her Rocco and Luca would be her legacy. Jen’s legacy is carried through her sons, but it’s even bigger- it’s carried through the foundation she created, Go Jen Go.
Jen was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2007, after having some pain nursing her second son. During treatment, she saw many women at chemotherapy that were struggling to meet their day to day needs and take care of their families. She would bring gift cards given to her and share them with others. From there, the Go Jen Go Foundation was born. The foundation helps families in the greater Charlotte area who are fighting breast cancer and struggling financially. They provide some assistance on a monthly basis to help cover rent, utilities, groceries, gas, and other necessities, so that the survivors can focus on the real fight. Her legacy after being diagnosed with breast cancer became her two young sons and this foundation.
Five years since she passed and ten years since the foundation was created, her legacy continues to be carried by many passionate volunteers, family members and friends supporting the foundation. Here is a glimpse of who Jen was and how they keep her spirit alive. Meet Joe, Britt and Susan.
A mother. A wife. A fighter. – A husband’s perspective: Joe Pagani
Jen was an amazing ray of light in a dark world. Her spirit rarely fell, even during her final hours. Jen was a dedicated mother and wife. When she was diagnosed, she pressed the doctors for a time frame. They reluctantly told her one year. She was determined to make sure her two young boys (2 months and 22 months) would grow old enough to remember her while she was still around. She battled for over 6 years. 17 different types of chemo, radiation and experimental therapy. Her physical fitness was a big part of how she survived for so long. As a two-time Ironman finisher, she was the pinnacle of health and fitness. She continued to run, bike and swim during her treatments, as much as she could handle.
All the events that the foundation hosts, and all the ancillary events that other foundations host on our behalf, are joyful, happy and positive events. This is just what Jen was about. Doing good for others in a celebration of a caring community. Jen would be so grateful to the Board of Directors, the committee members and leaders, and to all our donors for keeping this foundation strong and focused on helping others. She would be so very happy to see how many families we have been able to help in their darkest times, over the past six years since she left us.
Her other legacy she left is our sons, Rocco and Luca. We have been very fortunate to have two young men who are happy, well adjusted, and very proud of their mother. We talk about her all the time, and our memories are filled with fun and loving times. Seeing Jen’s image and watching her in videos through the Foundation keeps her fresh in their hearts and minds.
Smarties, you can listen with Joe Pagani on our Smarty Podcast here, so amazing!
A best friend. A supporter. – A friend’s perspective: Britt Yett
Jen was a force. She was determined and loyal and innately positive. Positive was her default. Not to say some days weren’t agonizing, but she sought the silver linings and chose to focus her energy there.
She received generosity and turned it into the creation of Go Jen Go. She understood that her legacy was two beautiful boys and an organization that she hoped could show them what her values of generosity and compassion looked like. I think she loved what Go Jen Go could be for those who loved her – a way to stay engaged and in touch with her memory and with each other. And it has done that.
She is still the glue that holds Go Jen Go together and personally, she continues to inspire me to turn outward, to seek silver linings, and choose to make the most of any situation. Go Jen Go reaches into the margins – to those who don’t have the support they need to fight the big fight. Go Jen Go offers a different kind of hope – not necessarily for a cure, but certainly hope for a brighter tomorrow.
An inspiration. A visionary. A motivator. – A foundation perspective – Susan Sears
Every day, a thought of ‘what would Jen think’ crosses my mind. I have a picture of Jen on my desk and it reminds and motivates me to stay true to what Jen created and her dreams for supporting others fighting breast cancer. Although I spent a short amount of time with her, meeting her late in her battle, she made an immediate impact on my life. I knew that I wanted to be involved in anything and everything that she touched. Go Jen Go as an organization is evolving and growing, yet we always reflect on Jen’s legacy and keep her at the forefront for all that we do.
Jen’s legacy is evident in the number of survivors that Go Jen Go is supporting on a monthly basis and the families that are able to stay in their homes, pay their household bills, and feel relief from the day to day stress that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis. I hear from our grant recipients that have never met Jen but feel her standing alongside them as they are getting treatments. Jen’s vibrancy and passion are tangible and allows for a unique and beautiful connection that they feel with her. Jen lives on through others as we continue to share her story.
Three different perspectives of Jen, the foundation and her legacy. But it’s woven together through their stories. Jen was an amazing woman who saw her fight against breast cancer as something bigger than herself. Something that wouldn’t define her, but rather define a platform for her to serve her community and leave a legacy for her loved ones to continue to keep alive. But most of all she was a loving mom, who lived by example, showing her boys strength, compassion, grit and that we are bigger than ourselves.
More on Go Jen Go & Run Jen Run:
If you’d like to support the Go Jen Go Foundation here are a few opportunities. Sign up for the Run Jen Run 5K & Festival on March 7 at 8 AM, held at Symphony Park – SouthPark. You can donate to their fundraising efforts for the race and they always welcome race day volunteers. Visit www.runjenrun5k.com
To learn more about the Go Jen Go Foundation and Jen Pagani’s legacy, visit www.gojengo.org.
All proceeds will benefit the Go Jen Go Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing critical financial assistance to local individuals and families who are battling breast cancer. We provide aid during diagnosis, treatment and recovery.