Not Fast Just Fabulous
Two time stroke survivor to a runner inspiring thousands
To take a walk in my shoes please read on... it's quite the story.
When I was just turning 14, 18 long years ago, if you would have told me that everyone's here for a reason, that everyone has a special talent and they need to figure out what it is to become who they're supposed to be, I would have simply thought you were nuts.
But now that I am 32 and have experienced so many ups and downs I look at life much differently. It started around age 15. After a near death experience, having a stroke and brain surgery at the ripe age of 14, my life had literally forever changed. The entire right side of my body was now numb because of the stroke... I couldn't walk for 2 months, I had almost no use of my right hand, I had to relearn numbers and counting, my ABC's and how to write (as a lefty), how to talk, how to go to the bathroom... even the simplest task like tying my shoes took 20 minutes or more and sometimes ended with me just giving up. The majority of the right side of my body was permanently numbed... I could still feel pressure but I lived with the constant feeling of "pins & needles" all along my right side. Some things took many months to relearn, some things took years, and some things would take longer or never really get back to "normal." I would always have the numbness in my right side, but I eventually regained use of my right hand. I was eventually able to mostly think and talk and write like most people, but I definitely had a lot of mental and verbal issues- I still sometimes mistakenly say "chicken" instead of "kitchen" or mix up other words or numbers... it takes a lot of effort and concentration to think and say simple things sometimes. I have trouble remembering things and multitasking- I basically have lots of different issues that I'll probably struggle with forever, some obvious and some not. I had lost so much, struggled with so many things, and couldn't accept that I would no longer be the same as I was. I sunk into the deepest depression, honestly thinking about killing myself. After those dark months, medication and therapy slowly pulled me out of the worst of it, though I still was a bit of an emotional loose cannon. Still though, I realized I was lucky to be alive and I came to the conclusion that I needed to turn this negative part of my life into a positive. I started to focus on moving forward with what I had. I realized how important it was for me and everyone else to stop taking their lives and the things or people they have for granted... and especially to love themselves for being who they are.
Fast forward 8 years. I was 23 years old, and 38 weeks (8-1/2 months) pregnant... then I had another stroke. This time I lost more feeling and most use of the right side of my body. Amazingly and luckily the bleed in my head stopped on its own, if it didn't stop there was nothing the doctors could have done to save me- this bleed was too deep in my brain and near the base of my neck. I would have slipped into a permanent coma or just bled until my body shut down. After I miraculously stabilized, my daughter was removed by C-Section, a healthy little angel! Now with life challenging me again with more negatives, I had the new challenge of being a first-time mother on top of more new stroke side-effects. The numbness in my right side isn't just "pins & needles" anymore, a lot of my right side is just plain numb. I have almost entirely lost the use of my right hand... after weeks of therapy and with a lot of concentration I'm just able to close my hand around something... I have very little control of my hand and just about no control over individual fingers. I'm almost entirely left-handed and only left-handed, except for basically being able to squeeze things or hang things from my right hand. Some of the mental and verbal issues I had from my first stroke stayed the same, and some have gotten worse. Really, I don't believe I could have handled the side-effects of my second stroke back when I was 14 and had my first... but now I had a fiancé and a daughter. I had my now-husband, his family, and my family to lean on and to support me. I cried a lot, struggled a lot, and moved forward however I could.
For the next 8 years I dealt with not feeling my entire right side, with emotional and cognitive issues (I've heard that word so many times!), with not being able to do everything with my family that I wanted to do. I sometimes needed a cane to walk, I was on heavy medications for pain and spasticity (shakiness in my arm and leg), and again for depression. Even with all the true friends and family I was surrounded by, I had so many problems that were hard to ignore or overcome. But after so much time, help, and support I again realized that I was still here and had a lot to be thankful for. With everyone's help and my strong will revived, I started to turn my new life into a learning experience. Eventually I found a passion in teaching others to embrace people who are different, to see past physical and mental issues.
But what was THE THING that changed me and how I live my life? While my husband is so amazing, supportive and wonderful, the reason for my change is MY DAUGHTER LILY.
She's not just any average energetic 8 year old, she's the size of a 12 year old and she's a runner. (My husband is 6'6;... almost a giant!)
Last November Lily joined an after school program called Girls On The run. It's a 10 week program where the coaches teach important life lessons and integrate the program with running. At the end of the program the Girls and their running buddies participate in a nationally known 5K (Girls On The Run 5K). This program is amazing on so many different levels.
Well, last season, Lily's running buddy had to be a coach because I wasn't in any way shape or form able to run with all my medical issues and pain, and my husband wasn't sure if he'd be able to get off of work. All of the other girls got to run with their moms, but I couldn't do that for Lily.
Deep down it was really hurtful to think I couldn't do this one thing that meant so much to my daughter.
Then it started... on November 29th, 2012 at 9:37am I threw down my cane, stepped out of the front door and starting walking and very slowly jogging. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing, but there was NO way I'd miss my daughters next season.
I went almost 2 miles in around 25 minutes, it wasn't the best, but it was something. And boy was I tired and sore during and after.
But I wasn't going to miss Lily's next 5K. The next day I ran 2.13 in 27 minutes, and from then on I couldn't stop! I wanted to run every day I could!
My latest journey had begun! I kept jogging and running a few days every week, for the distances I could go, and at my own pace (which I think is amazing considering what I've been through, and which I'm so thankful I'm able to do even when I see other runners flying past me. For me and hopefully for others it will always be about what YOU can do, not what you cannot.)
After months of training and sweating on my own, I worked up the courage to put myself out there as a runner- I helped coach Lily's group in her second Girls On The Run season.
June 8th, 2013 became another special day of my life that I'll never forget, because on that day I got to run with my biggest inspiration, my daughter. What I have become by achieving my goal of running this race with my daughter is nothing that can be put in words.
Since I started all those months ago, I have run four 5K races and have even run 3 10k's, which was LIFE CHANGING! Last week I actually ran my first ever consecutive 9 Miles! Again, not fast but I've run my way, my pace, and I've finished.
Another amazing accomplishment has been my first bike ride in over 18 years. It was wobbly and scary. I almost took out two bikers, but I managed a 1.77 mile bike ride!
My current project is raising $1,000 for the CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) through donations for my first Half Marathon.
Over the last few weeks I have had some amazing opportunities. I have had 2 News Interviews, A News Paper Article written about my story and the chance to help with next years Cannonball Run. I was also contacted by Green Clock Films to be featured on an episode of Madison's Noteworthy. This week I am meeting with the Wisconsin State Journal.
To find links to these amazing things visit my blog
I am living proof that "What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." -Henry David Thoreau
It turns out I was a runner all along.
It turns out I'm stronger than I thought. I had it in me the whole time.
It turns out that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!