Ja Pace

 

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I first saw Ja Pace while dancing salsa on Commercial Drive back in 2001. It was in a beginner class, but she was amazing and so graceful. It was always a treat to see her dancing at the Latin nights. Ja stood out because of her amazingly positive energy and her unique fashion sense. She quickly became one of the best dancers in Vancouver’s local salsa scene.

     
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2 years ago, in the spring, I got an email from Ja about a fundraiser. I did not pay much attention to it until she called a few weeks later asking me if I was coming to the event. Not having read the email, I asked her what the fundraiser was for, she said that it was for her… she went on to tell me about her rare blood condition. She went on to tell me how surprised she was that her story was on the cover of the Province newspaper that day.
 
http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=5450378d-f14b-44b5-b389-30cb0a3f1253

My heart sunk reading the story. I never knew that anything could possibly be wrong with such a beatiful, positive person. She always looked so healthy. I never noticed the machine she wore daily to pump medication into her blood stream as she hid it well under her clothes. Blood transfusions once a month since 4 years old? Not expected to live past 40 years? She never told many people about her situation because she didn’t think anyone could really help until the opportunity came along to go to Rome where a doctor has had success doing a bone marrow transplant with the patient’s mother. The procedure was not covered by medicare, and cost $200 000, not including the cost of living in Italy for almost a year for preparation and recovery. I spread the word to as many people as I could. So many of our friends were shocked to hear about it. A few came to the fundraiser event with us.

I’m not sure how much was raised that night, but I knew she had a long way to go to raise the $200,000 needed by September. I mentioned Ja’s story to Jacquie Underwood, the editor of Vancouver Lifestyles magazine, introduced her to Ja and the following cover story was published shortly after.  

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I couldn’t get Ja and her difficult situation out of my mind. When Viktoria, one of our friends approached me about doing a calendar in order to raise funds for Ja, I got excited. The calendar consisted of some of our lovely Salsera friends. We spent months putting together the project with a lot of help from many people. My amazing manager, Annalissa headed this project and turned the campaign into a huge success; we had a launch event, where Gloria Mackarenko got on board as the MC. The calendar raised over $30 000 for her cause. Michael Buble made one of the largest donations. By the time we launched the calendar, Ja had already made her way to Italy with her family.   

www.jonathancruz.com/ja07

 

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The procedure went well, however there were complications. Ja had to have her own bone marrow re-introduced, was kept in isolation for several months trying to recover from the many complications that resulted. At one point she was temporarily blind.

Ja has since returned to Canada, and remains the positive, creative, and wonderful human being that she has always been. She is an inspiration to me, and I have always enjoyed being around her. I have gotten to work with her on several shoots in the past few months. She is an amazing makeup artist and stylist.

She continues to go into the hospital for regular blood transfusions, and frequently encounters hurdles in regards to her health. She didn’t get the cure from her illness that she was expecting, but you’d never know it looking at her. She does not portray a sick individual, but rather lives her life to the fullest. She loves her family, loves her friends and truly enjoys every day she lives.

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4 Comments

Filed under 1, Heroes

4 responses to “Ja Pace

  1. Thanks for the beautiful blog about Ja , Jonathan.
    Ja is love. That’s what we always say.
    And you know what’s cool ? its not romantic love- its real love.
    …I have to say I’ve always felt that about her, and likely always will.
    She always turns up when I need it…calls me “by chance” and says something that changes my direction , makes me turn back to myself.. just when I thought i was going to lose it.
    …and then she usually has something to tell me about something I needed (by chance again) and where to get it…just as she’s chatting…not because she means to.
    Ja doesn’t try to please…yet she does often…go figure…she’s real.

  2. Krysta Nordin

    Although I have not met Ja, her life has already inspired me.

    Living life to the fullest & experiencing each moment as a gift is unfortuantely not always a common experience. Life can get taken for granted. Little do some know that all we really have for certain is this present moment. Western society tends to live in the future – working towards deadlines, worrying about what is to come, focusing on the end results, etc. However, didn’t somone wise once say that it’s the journey, not the destination, that really counts?

    The way Ja lives her life is beautiful. Yes, illness may be a part of her experience, although it sounds as if she does not let it overshadow her. She seems to not only create joy & freedom for herself, but she touches many other lives as well (even those she does not know, like myself). Her inner beauty is evident in the details of this blog as well as in the stunning moments that Jonathan captured on camera.

    Life is precious: we are here & we are alive, & that is worthy of celebration. Ja has inspired me to live, love & laugh, cherish each breath-taking moment, and to make every second count.

    Thank you, Ja, for being the way you are & living the way you do. You illuminate more lives than you know. I send you love, well-being & strength. Perhaps one day I will have the honour of meeting you in person.

  3. Alberto

    Beautiful, a reminder that life is just a moment and it is right now…… what an inspiration !!!!. Ja all the best for you !!! I truly believe that one can not call him or herself a human being if we can not make this world better and you have done that by showing us that only love and life matters. You are now part of our lives and for that I am greatful and honored.

  4. Barb Jones

    I first heard of her in 2006 (it was on BCTV).How is she doing now?

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