What does it mean to “Live Unfiltered?”
We asked Garmin Ambassador Jacky Hunt-Broersma for her thoughts. As an ultrarunner, cancer survivor, world record holder and now, certified PADI Open Water Diver, Hunt-Broersma knows a thing or two about living her life to the fullest.
Meeting Life’s Challenges
At age 26, Jacky, now an ultra-athlete, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer; four weeks later, she had her leg amputated. “It wasn’t something I was expecting,” she said. “At the time, I had just gotten a promotion at work, and I was traveling all over Europe, and it just felt so unfair. In the beginning, I was angry, scared and in total denial. I didn’t want cancer, and I didn’t want to lose my leg.”
Amputation was her best chance for survival. After the surgery, she was determined to get her life back. Here’s where she began to live big – no matter what was put in front of her. “I was back at work within five weeks after my amputation and playing squash six weeks later,” she recalled.
Running Her Own Race
Hunt-Broersma needed to ground herself in her new reality. “When I started running, I thought I would only run 5k’s because running wasn’t something I did at all when I had both my legs,” she said. “I struggled with 5K’s, but eventually felt strong enough to challenge myself, so I registered for a 10k race, but at packet pickup, I decided that I will do the half marathon.”
Adopting an “I can do hard things” approach to life, she quickly graduated to running marathons and trail races. As she found her step, she also found herself. “I loved absolutely everything about it – the struggle, the community and getting myself to that finish line,” she said. “It’s not something I thought I would ever be able to do, and everyone told me that I can’t run trails with a prosthetic leg.”
From there, she’s increased the pace – literally – and the distance, becoming an ultrarunner and an ambassador for living a big, bold, badass life. “Why not? Right?” she asked, rhetorically. “[Running] fills me with so much joy. It’s hard but the hard is what makes it so great.”
Pushing Herself to #LiveUnfiltered
“I can do hard things” became a personal mantra for her life when she attempted 104 marathons in 104 consecutive days – one of the hardest things she’s ever done. She succeeded and has kept the catchword close to her heart ever since.
At PADI, we recognize this drive. Life isn’t perfect, but it is real – and worth experiencing. This is the premise behind “Live Unfiltered” – which urges people to live their most authentic lives by connecting to nature, others and themselves. We felt an instant synergy with Hunt-Broersma and thought she would love taking her journey underwater.
Taking Her First Giant Stride
“Diving, again, isn’t something I ever thought I would do,” the runner admitted. “I have a major fear of deep water, so I never swim in the ocean because of it.” However, given her resilient mindset and her tendency to never turn down a challenge, she went for her PADI Open Water Diver certification in Playa del Carmen – and got it!
Angel Navarro, a PADI Course Director and the co-owner of The Go Pro Family, certified Hunt-Broersma earlier this summer. “Overcoming challenges is nothing new to Jacky, so when she struggled with clearing her mask, she was able to keep practicing until she mastered the skills with ease. It was a pleasure to teach someone with such a positive attitude,” he said.
Even on her first dives, she was bit by the blue bug and able to truly live unfiltered. She cruised through the confined water dives and some beautiful drops on the reefs surrounding Playa del Carmen, returning home as one of the newest members of the PADI family. “We saw sting rays, beautiful reefs with beautiful fish. It was amazing. We even went cavern diving. The cavern diving was incredible,” she added.
Hunt-Broersma thanked Navarro and his crew for their help. “I had the best experience with the PADI dive shop. The team made me feel so comfortable. I was so nervous, but they reassured me that I can do this.”
She recalled having a small panic attack on her first ocean dive, and how Navarro, a PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty Trainer, kept her calm. Since the runner doesn’t have a swimming leg, she had to take her prosthetic leg off to dive. At first, she felt off-balance and slow; however, Navarro’s patience gave her the time and confidence she needed to adapt and fall in love with the sport.
“I think for an instructor, it can be tempting to view our student’s disability as a disadvantage rather than a difference, and we can try to overcompensate by doing too much for them,” Navarro said. “We as instructors need to adapt to our students rather than the other way around.”
The instructor did so with Hunt-Broersma by using one fin himself when they were in confined water so that his movements would be more similar to hers. “Jacky is well-adapted to her disability – she runs marathons with one leg so why can’t she dive with one leg!?” he urged.
Additionally, the crew helped her carry her equipment, get it on/off after she got into the water and had her prosthetic ready immediately when she got out. All these were an amazing comfort and help, she said.
Discovering a Whole New Unfiltered World
Before going beneath the surface, Hunt-Broersma had worried she wouldn’t be able to move fast enough underwater with just one leg/fin. However, she soon realized “diving isn’t a race.” She added, “It is all about taking your time to experience the magic of everything underwater.”
Diving is “hard to describe” and total “freedom,” she said. It’s about slowing down – which is the opposite of running, where everything works against a clock.
Looking back, she sees how diving aligns well with her life values. “It fits in perfectly, because it’s about getting out of your comfort zones and pushing your limits. Diving certainly took me out of my comfort zone, and I overcame my fear of deep water.”
She and Navarro agree: for anyone – especially someone with different abilities – who is curious about diving or something new, the advice is to try. “You are capable of so much more than you think. If you don’t try, you will never know,” she concluded.
So, what are you waiting for? Get your PADI and live unfiltered.