Jan’s story begins in darkness. Living on only $400 a month, with three boys to support and a host of physical ailments, Jan was barely able to face her challenges. Systemic Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, heart disease, depression, partial blindness, Narcolepsy, and obesity were all taking their toll on her health. In 1995, Jan had a stroke that caused partial paralysis and that left her right brain dead. She gave her kids up after a nearly fatal mishap of falling asleep at the wheel with them in the car.
All alone, she needed to muster up enough strength to find a way to get her boys back. According to Jan, the unending yearning in her heart to regain her boys was the biggest motivating force in her determination to get well. In 1997, she moved to Florida, began living with her boys again and continued to struggle with extremely high blood pressure and a myriad of other health issues. No sooner had Jan thought that things were improving, she had a heart attack (later referred to as hypertensive encephalopathy) in March of ‘98
With more determination than ever, she decide to take control of her life, praying to God for another direction.
Soon afterward, she saw an ad in the classifieds for Tai Chi instructors. She was more than ready to make that phone call, which changed her life forever. What appealed to her at that time was the statement that instructors could work their own hours, because at that time her mental and physical condition was so poor that she really only could work barely an hour a day!
On the phone, she kept her story brief, and was invited for an interview. When she met Master Kelly, founder of Tai Chi U.S.A., he thought she had just a few physical challenges. Little did he know that she was more than a hundred pounds overweight, paralyzed on the left side, and more than 25 medications daily. Yes, more than 25.
Jan left her cane in the car, took a deep breath and entered the local health club. His back was turned. When he turned around to see her, a look of shock swept over his face, leaving him rather perplexed at the prospect of Jan teaching Tai Chi. He stammered a little, saying something about not being able to guarantee Jan a position and not feeling morally right about accepting any money from her for the instructor’s program. “Well that is perfectly ok,” she said, “I don’t expect any guarantees, I have no money to give you anyway, and I can assure you I will become an instructor!” And so it went.
Jan’s courage and will power to regain her health propelled her into a life of criticism, initial test failure, daunting pain and overwhelming fatigue. It was Barbara Marville, Master Kelly’s fiancée, who after starting her life over at mid-life as a single mom while working a challenging late night schedule as a successful television show host, that proceeded to encourage Master Kelly to give her a chance. As Barbara said, “I see the determination in Jan’s eyes and the hope in her heart. I know she can do it!
Just 22 months after that first commitment to Tai Chi U.S.A., Jan was a sparkling, joyous instructor who loved to be involved in her sons’ lives. They were thrilled to see her active and sharing with them for the first time in many years. The enormous turn around this remarkable women made in such a very short time was a triumph of miraculous proportions. Her recovery and diligence with Tai Chi was so impressive, that Master Kelly gave her the position of National Training Director.
She had instructed more than 500 students, and everyone she taught loved her as if she was part of their family. Jan’s loyalty to Master Kelly, Barbara, and her students was unending. Not a day went by that Jan didn’t show her appreciation. One of the happiest days of Jan’s life was when she was able to turn down her Social Security.
She had lost over 100 pounds in just 14 months and was no longer on any medication. Pretty good considering Social Security stated she would not ever be capable of retraining, working with the public, or ever be capable of making any independent choices, because she was reportedly partially right brain dead from her stroke. She was a living miracle, a deeply inspiring heroine who longed to help people of all ages.
When Jan taught, her big heart lead the way. Jan’s mission of light was, “For every eye that is searching, for every ear that is listening, I am determined to share this knowledge and the wonderful benefits they may receive through the journey of Tai Chi – Chi Kung, to help improve each and every person’s desire for a strong sense of well-being and, most importantly, so they can float out of class on their silver lining!” Not bad for someone who was told by doctors that she would never be able to work with the public again because she was partially right brain dead.
Both Master Kelly and Barbara believed that Jan was an angel sent to them by God. It was her dedication, loyalty and miraculous recovery that inspired Master Kelly to work night and day to produce one of the most successful programs of its kind, ever. His Chi Kung & Tai Chi videos have sold over a quarter of a million dollars on the HomeShopping Network and the International Fitness Professional Association, along with the National Association of Professional Martial Artists, who selected his Chi Kung & Tai Chi certification program alone to certify instructors world wide on how to teach and market the precious art of Chi Kung & Tai Chi.
Master Kelly will admit that if it wasn’t for Barbara and Jan he would probably never have been inspired to take the time and effort needed to spend the hundreds of hours writing the manuals and putting forth the effort so that thousands of people all over the world could benefit from Jan’s dream.
The Rest of Jan’s Story
Jan Shields not only proved she could improve her life to such a remarkable degree, but she affected the lives of hundreds of people of all different ages and fitness levels. She was an inspiration to everyone who met her, and not just to those who were affected by the same life threatening diseases. In less than a four-month period, Jan raised over $4,000.00 for the Arthritis Foundation, and won a trip to enter the Honolulu Marathon.
Jan not only entered in the Marathon on December 10, 2000, but she made it through the entire 26 miles without taking a single break. This must certainly be classified as a modern day miracle, considering the emotional, physical, and mental problems that Jan had only two years prior to the event. Anyone would agree that such a physical and mental feat is unbelievable.
Just as everything seemed to be going right in Jan’s life – she had the best job of her life, she had her boys back, she was happier than she had ever been, she felt better then she had ever felt in her life, and to top it all was prepared to take the test for her Grand Master Certification in Tai Chi (which would have made her one of the highest certified instructors in Tai Chi U.S.A.), Jan had the rug pulled out from under her. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The cancer had reached the stage where it was on the walls of her ovaries. Here was a women who overcame Fibromyaligia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, heart disease, depression, partial blindness, Narcolepsy, Systemic Lupus, and obesity, and now she was faced with the challenge of her life – cancer.
Doctors are now saying that when women hold deeply seated, unresolved issues deep inside, it often affects their ovaries. Jan’s parents had never taken an interest in her. They all but abandoned her when what she really wanted was to be accepted by them. To make matters worse she had the terrible memories of her daughter running off and marrying her step father, “Jan’s husband.” Anytime Jan would talk about it with me or Barbara she would end up in tears. I believe it was the memories of that incident that helped cause the cancer.
Jan would not outwardly admit the fact that she was terminal, but inside I believe she knew that this was one battle she couldn’t win. What may seem strange for many is that Jan spent her last few weeks not in the hospital or at a Hospice facility, but with her daughter and her ex-husband at their house along with her three boys.
One of the saddest moments, but also one of the happiest of my life, was to present Jan her Tai Chi – Chi Kung Grand Masters certificate a week before she passed away. There was not a dry eye in the room. I never saw Jan so at peace with herself and so happy. She looked like one of God’s little angels as she lay there looking up at us with one of the most beautiful smiles. Her last words to Barbara and I were to promise her that we would continue to spread this knowledge to others as long as we lived. Jan had finally, during her last few days on this earth, made peace with her family.
Barbara and I will never forget Jan, nor will anyone who has ever met her. She has changed all of our lives forever…….
Jan’s picture of her crossing the finish line at the Honolulu Marathon in the year 2000