Thursday 10 November. Sébastien Jacques shows up at the offices of The print with a large, well-stuffed blue duffel bag on his back. On the side, a bottle is just waiting to be used. It will be very useful to them in the coming weeks, when the Magogois will run 47 marathons in 50 days, from north to south of Italy.
“But why? You’re probably wondering.
To find the answer to this question, we have to go back to 2011. Sébastien Jacques was then 23 years old. He is a Canadian tennis champion and will turn pro in the coming months when he completes his fourth year of study at Virginia Tech University, Virginia.
One morning, the young man is afflicted with dizziness and muscle weakness. In training, his trainer she asks him if everything is okay. Sébastien first thinks about a flu.
“We went shopping after training. I always finished first easily. Here, I did it and I did everything to not finish last. That’s when I said to myself: wait, this is not normal, this is not the flu,” she says.
Virtually unable to stand, Sébastien quits tennis and meets the university doctor. Back in Quebec, he consulted specialist after specialist, each trying to put his finger on what was afflicting him. All options are evaluated.
I was no longer able to live. I was no longer able to get up, to see friends. I was dizzy, weak, still sitting or lying down.
Sébastien thus lives “four years of hell”, being able to walk only 15 minutes a day at most. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” he says. One day the diagnosis falls: a tumor has settled in the center of his brain. The problem is that doctors consider it too risky to remove it.
“I said, ‘What do you recommend?’ I was told: “she learns to live like this”. »
Never give up
Sporty at heart, Sébastien Jacques refuses to resign himself to such a life. He does some online research, which leads him to a Facebook group. He wrote there that he was looking for a doctor who would agree to remove his tumor “from the pineal gland.” Some names are proposed to him, including those of two neurosurgeons who are located in Santa Monica, California.
“They gave me their mobile number, they answered all my questions. I heard it was [les bons]. »
South of the border, healthcare comes at a cost. In this case: $110,000. The former tennis player then launches a fundraiser. His story, published in the media, goes around the Eastern Townships. The tennis community is there: $80,000 is raised in Quebec, $30,000 at Virginia Tech.
On February 12, 2015, Sébastien traveled with his parents to Santa Monica, where he underwent surgery. The risks that you leave his life there are estimated at 7%, but this matters little to him. “I was out of life,” he whispers.
The operation, which takes four hours, finally goes perfectly. After three weeks of convalescence, Sébastien returns to Quebec. In Magog people recognize him, they are intrigued by his scar, they ask him if he intends to start playing tennis again.
Though talkative, Sébastien doesn’t particularly like attention. In a desire to be “Sebastian as a human being again, not the tennis player or the guy who has had brain surgery” he decides to move to Australia. There, he is a coach in a tennis club.
“I loved it,” she recalls. I could make my life again. »
Arriving at her group class one morning, a lady told her that she had googled her name. “I told my story to that small group and then a mother came to see me. She wanted me to talk to her daughter about her. She has an autoimmune disease and she has a hard time staying positive about it. »
That’s when it all clicked: Sébastien wondered what he could do to help others. And the answer came during one of his long coastal walks.
“I looked at the horizon and I said to myself: I’m going to walk. »
The first challenge
In 2017, Sébastien Jacques achieved his first big challenge: running a marathon a day for six months.
I wanted to do it for people. Say: I was no longer able to walk 15 minutes a day and here I am going to walk a marathon a day to let you know that we all have tough times in our lives.
The man who is now general manager of the Mount Royal tennis club traveled 5,000km from Magog to Quebec, Montreal, then Virginia Beach and Virginia Tech, where his health problems started six years earlier. He then headed to Santa Monica, where he shook hands with the neurosurgeon who saved his life, before returning to Magog. A journey that required almost superhuman mental strength.
His story has made the rounds of North America. She has met many people and received thousands of messages from people inspired by her story.
When he returned to Magog, hundreds of people were waiting for him; on stage he couldn’t speak, tears streaming down his cheeks. “At a certain point I began to say: it’s over. Walking, yes, but also to share this message of hope. »
“When I was asked what was next [défi], I said: I will never walk again. »
But it was wrong.
At the time of writing, Sébastien Jacques is in Italy, where he began his adventure by walking 47 marathons in 50 days – the equivalent of 2000km – for the benefit of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation. The goal is $100,000. He opted for this foundation after meeting the hospital team. Accompanied by a neurosurgeon, he met a little boy who had just undergone brain surgery.
You walk out of there and the doctor says to you, “If we had this equipment, it could help us even more.” It has a direct impact.
And why in Italy? When he ran his 5,000 km in the United States, a lady who met him asked if he could post a picture of him running on his social media. Sébastien nodded, unaware that the lady was an Italian star. “Since that moment, I have 20,000 Italians on my Instagram page,” he recalls.
It was therefore natural for him to carry on this challenge at home. It is also his subscribers who will host him on each of the 50 evenings.
For the rest, the secret of success will be to go “one day at a time”.
“What I want to send is a beautiful message. Personally, I totally hate the challenge. Totally, totally, totally, he insists. My profound message is that I want to make someone who is going through difficult times in his life smile. Point. »