Inspiring Story of Jocelyn Chang, a Black Belt Who Fought and Beat Cancer

Read about my friend Jocelyn Chang and her black belt super fight with breast cancer.

What would you do if at the age of 39 you were diagnosed with cancer? Would you fall into a depression and let the sickness win or would you fight back with determination? For anyone in this situation it becomes a defining moment in their life and for some the trial becomes a turning point to do even greater things than they had before they were sick. Most of us will never have to face such a challenge but even still we can learn from and be inspired by those that have.

Jocelyn Chang is one of those people and a true inspiration. A Jiu-Jitsu black belt who trained under Leka Vieira, she has always been the coolest of cucumbers. And when she discovered she had breast cancer, that didn’t change.

You can’t tell by looking at her that she has ever been sick. She still stands tall at 4’9” and 95 pounds, has a full head of hair again, stands strong, and trains regularly at her studio Let’s Roll Jiu Jitsu.

After being diagnosed with cancer, she underwent a double mastectomy, 18 weeks of chemo, and, 33 days of radiation. In spite of feeling sick and down, and at times being unable to get out of bed, she managed to keep her spirits up. Her radiation treatments ended on March 30, 2010 and 2 weeks later, she was back on the mat. Talk about fierce.

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“I’ve always been a strong willed kid to start with. Seeing my sister and cousins go through it [cancer] already prepared me for what to expect.  Having family and friends that supported me gave me comfort just knowing that I was not alone if I needed them. But I mostly contribute healing so quickly to my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. It has prepared me both physically and mentally.  Physically, the rigorous exercises and training gave me the conditioning needed to heal rapidly after my surgery and treatments.  Mentally, you are always strategizing and reacting to your opponent while you’re training. This kept me sharp.  Most importantly, the confidence and the will to ‘fight and win’ are also gained while training. I was able to get up and walk on my own the day after my surgery.”

Jocelyn’s husband Glenn and dog Penny gave Jocelyn the fuel to fight and live.  Glenn, showing the strength to not break down and keep going reminded her always to continue the fight.  The unconditional love of a pet proved to be better medicine than anything prescribed. Penny would not leave her side twenty-four hours a day.  Having them in her life also helped her recover physically and mentally so she can do what she is passionate about: teaching and training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.   

Ask any martial artist, and they will tell you that it isn’t only a sport but also a way of life. As a martial artist, Jocelyn always has survival in the front of her mind… whether on or off the mat. Do you have something to fight for? How do you keep your mind strong even through the darkest times? Those with something to live and fight for have a much higher rate of recovery than those that feel that their life is over because of their illness. This doesn’t apply to just sickness but it is true of any challenges that we face in life.

Jocelyn Chang is the head instructor at Let’s Roll Jiu Jitsu Academy. Her “game” has evolved quite a bit. She moves differently as she has had to protect her upper body more due to having had a radical mastectomy. It would be easy to give up but as she says, “If I did that, then the cancer would have won.”

Having to alter something (in Jocelyn’s case, her fighting style), due to sickness or a challenge can actually be a blessing in disguise because maybe you’ll find something that you never would have found had you not gone through it. There could be a skill or strength that you didn’t know you had, a new occupation, meeting people you wouldn’t have met any other way, etc. As Charles R Swindoll said, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

Maybe you’re not sick but you can still learn from Jocelyn’s story and incorporate the power of positive thinking into your life. You could very well be going through a dark time in your life right now and you may be tired of hearing people say, “Things happen for a reason.” But they really do. And you may not know exactly what in the world God has in mind by throwing a challenge or two your way, but enlightenment is just around the corner. So hang in there, and never give up!

Jocelyn Chang owns Let’s Roll Jiu-Jitsu with her husband Glenn Chang, and together they hope to enlarge their school and open other schools across the nation. For more info on Jocelyn Chang and Let’s Roll Jiu Jitsu Academy, visit

* Marichiel Boudwin is also an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner and trains under Jocelyn Chang at Let’s Roll Jiu Jitsu Academy. Both Marichiel and Jocelyn, who are great friends, have been training jiu-jitsu together since 1998. They have both been through hell and back and you will always know these 2 will be giving everything their all.

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