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It was the summer of 2014, just before Jasmine Moezzi’s senior year at the University of Southern California. The applied mathematics student had just arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, to start an internship—something the driven student saw as an important stepping stone to her graduation and future career.
But something was wrong. About a week after her arrival in Taipei, she began to experience extreme fatigue—“the worst I’ve ever experienced in my life,” says Moezzi. A high fever soon set in, followed by severe gastrointestinal issues. Instead of gaining valuable experience in her college internship, the 20-year-old spent the next three months being shuttled from specialist to specialist in Taipei, trying to identify what was making her so sick.
“My fever kept coming and going, but everything else either stayed the same or got even worse,” recalls Moezzi.
When she was finally able to return to the United States, the saga continued: “I was thinking the doctors here would surely figure it out, give me some antibiotics, and I’d be all better. Little did I know, the journey was only just beginning.”
With more investigation, Moezzi’s puzzling symptoms eventually revealed a complex diagnosis: Chronic Active Epstein-Barr Virus (CAEBV), Mold/Mycotoxins Toxicity, and multiple systemic bacterial overgrowth. The conditions are a mouthful, so Moezzi usually sums it up as “chronic illness” or “autoimmune disease,” both of which are accurate but fail to convey the challenges Moezzi can experience over the course of a day: fatigue, nausea, and pain are her constant companions.
Perhaps the most challenging part of her illness, however, was that it robbed her of her identity as an athlete. Moezzi was a competitive figure skater and tennis player as a child, and became a Zumba instructor her sophomore year at USC. In her junior year, just before becoming sick, she had taken up running. All of that was on hold as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with her—she was simply too sick to be active.
But once Moezzi had a diagnosis, she was adamant about reclaiming her active identity. “I needed something to take away the pain and distract myself from my harsh new reality,” she says. “I started running again, but doing it every day was too much pounding on my body. A few friends convinced me to join the USC Triathlon Team.”
Moezzi didn’t know how to swim or bike, but as her new teammates showed her the ropes of triathlon, she relished in the satisfaction of being in charge of her body once again. “It made me feel like I was invincible. It was the first time I not only felt like my old self again, but the very best version of myself.”
Moezzi did her first race, the 2014 USC Triathlon, and never looked back. In 2016, she competed in Collegiate Regionals and qualified for USAT Collegiate Club Nationals. Shortly after, she completed her first Ironman 70.3. She has since completed five additional 70.3s, two marathons, and multiple century rides. In 2019, she won her age group at the Malibu Triathon. “It was surreal to see all that hard work pay off, and it’s by far my proudest moment,” says Moezzi.
Today, she works to help others claim the power of their bodies by working as a triathlon coach. She also races for the iracelikeagirl International women’s team, organized by pro triathlete Angela Naeth, who also fights chronic illness as the result of a Lyme Disease diagnosis.
“Triathlon has allowed me to truly discover myself and what matters most to me in life. It has opened my eyes to a whole new realm of possibilities with the sky being the limit,” says Moezzi. “I discovered my true strength and drive that I never knew my mind and body were capable of. Most importantly, triathlon has taught me to never give up and keep fighting no matter what. I will keep swimming, biking, and running for as long as I live.”