Life, Running and Racing After a Mini Stroke: My Story

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It was a very normal Saturday morning in May.  I got up and made breakfast for the kids and did my mom things.  I had invited my sister-in-law to a boot camp at our gym.  I’d been going for several months, trying to get stronger and faster.  I was training for several triathlon’s at the time so I was in decent shape.  I usually attended the camp during the week, so the Saturday class was just a bonus.

I had a sore throat and a headache when I woke up, but it didn’t seem like enough to keep me down.  Becoming a mom somehow gives us the right to push through any and all limits.  Like if we can conquer childbirth, we can conquer the world.  It’s really stupid sometimes. Since moms don’t usually get sick days, I think we just get used to pushing ourselves.  I honestly don’t remember having a debate in my mind about going or staying home.  I didn’t feel bad enough for that.  Of course I was going.

Camp was outside that day.  If you’ve ever been to Texas, you know we have two seasons, Winter and Summer.  It may have been early May, but it was hot and sickly humid.  I dropped my kids off at the child care because my husband was running errands that day.  He was supposed to be leaving the country on business that afternoon.  It was such a normal morning it was ridiculous.

I went outside to warm up, still not really feeling anything but a headache.  A dull one, but a headache all the same.  Headaches are a very normal part of my life, so when I get one, I don’t often stop unless it’s a migraine.  The workout was tough and I pushed myself pretty hard.  I was in training mode so I guess I pushed hard during most workouts.  Did I mention it was hot?

After the workout, I headed up the stairs to get my kids from the kids club and had planned to take them swimming at the gym pool.  I got them changed and headed to the cafe to feed them before we went swimming.  I remember I started to drag a bit, but assumed I needed something to eat and drink.  I tend to be stubborn.  I hate to admit when I’m feeling sick or down or anything really.  Wonder woman status is really not my life’s goal, and yet I’m bent trying to attain that status so much of the time.  Why is it so hard to admit when we need help or when we just aren’t well?!

We had been members of our gym for about a year, and it’s small so we knew a lot of people there.  Little did I know, this would prove to be a huge blessing.  I ordered the kids lunch and noticed my vision beginning to blur a bit.  I could only see clearly out of one side and even then, it was speckled with stars.  “Um, this is really not ok” I remember thinking.  We sat down to wait for our food and all I could do was put my head on the table.  A friend was there with her son, ordering lunch and planning to swim with us, so she got me some gatorade.  I have severe dehydration issues so I assumed I just needed some fluids and I’d be fine.  But I noticed words were hard.

All of a sudden, I could feel myself starting to go.  Not like I was going to fall off my chair, but I couldn’t think clearly.  I couldn’t think of my name, my kids names, what day it was.  My phone was on the table and I had been texting my husband telling him I didn’t feel well, and I remember managing to type “help.”  That was it.  My friend saw that I was starting to lean so she and one of the managers took me to the hall and laid me down.  I couldn’t talk, my body was numb and I couldn’t see out of one side.  I panicked.  Internally, I was freaking out.  Screaming even, but nothing was coming out of my mouth.  No words.  No tears.  Nothing.

Before I knew it, paramedics showed up at my side, asking me questions I couldn’t answer and taking vitals.  I wanted to tell them how I was feeling but I couldn’t make sense of anything in my head.  Just jumbled thoughts that couldn’t come out of my mouth.  Kelly, my name is Kelly I thought but it wouldn’t come out.  I knew my name, but not the date or day.  I was frustrated and terrified.  And where the heck were my kids?   I had no idea.

The friend that was with me, Candace, was with me as they were wheeling me to the ambulance and told me she had my boys and they hadn’t seen anything.  Praise God.  They were safe and my husband was on his way.  The ride to the hospital is a blur.  I still couldn’t talk.  Several hours and loads of tests later, they sent me home.  All they sent me out the door with were orders to see a neurologist and a cardiologist ASAP.  They couldn’t nail down exactly what had happened. Awesome.  Thanks so much for nothing.  The next day I landed at Urgent Care with strep throat. It was turning out to be a stellar weekend.

I spent the next several weeks at Dr’s appointments being poked and prodded and making my way through MRI and CAT Scan machines, EEG’s and EKG’s.   I heard how I probably shouldn’t run blah blah blah. Obviously at that point I started tuning them out.  All tests had come back normal.  I was sort of an anomaly.  And all I wanted to do was run again.

My cardiologist determined it was a severe ocular migraine combined with the onset of strep throat, the perfect storm to cause a TIA or mini stroke.  It took about a month to feel normal again, and even then I wasn’t 100%.  But, I had races to conquer and goals to achieve.  I needed to get back to training.  And not in an obsessive way, but in a this is where I feel my best way.

It’s my outlet.  My joy and passion and when something derails the ability to do it, I become that much more passionate.  That much more thankful.  My family was totally freaked out, as they should have been.  I would have reacted the same way if it had happened to them.  But in my mind, I was fine and moving forward.  Pressing on.  Gaining strength mentally and physically, but as far as they were concerned, I could have never run again.  But we all know as runners, that’s just crazy talk.  So, I spent the summer getting over the fear of it happening again, and regaining some ground with training.  I worked with my trainer, set some new goals and focussed on taking care of myself.  I slowed down.  I trained smarter.  I appreciated the small.

"Nobody is perfect. So get over the fear of being or doing everything perfectly. Besides, perfect is boring." ~Jillian Michaels 4 TM miles with shoulders and core work after and 550 ft of elevation. Cranked that incline to maximize a shorter time frame today. Kind of over the need to be perfect or train perfectly. Do what you can with what you have, be thankful for where you are and enjoy the journey. #lovetherun #runner #runnersofinstagram #igrunners #running #halfmarathontraining #halfmarathon #lift #girlswholift #fitfam #stelladotstyle #bebrave #athleta #treadmill #treadmillrun @jillianmichaels #quoteoftheday #lululemon #athleta #brooksrunning #sweatpink #fitfluential *professional image courtesy of @emilymeganphoto

“Nobody is perfect. So get over the fear of being or doing everything perfectly. Besides, perfect is boring.” ~Jillian Michaels

 

It’s now been 4 years since that day.  Many migraine’s, sinus surgery, one more kid,  3 full marathons, a 200 mile relay, half marathons, countless shorter distance races and several triathlons later, and I’m ok.   I started a blog to have an outlet for all my words and a place to track all my training and racing.  I became a certified personal trainer.  I’m teaching bootcamp where I get to pour into the lives of women while helping them get fit.  A dream really.

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I thought I was going to die that day.  Not to sound dramatic, but I really did.  It scared me and rattled me to the core, and I’m not a fearful person most of the time.

You guys, we are not invincible.

It reminded me what a gift it is to live and run and race and do the things I love.  To be a mom to my kids and to go grocery shopping.  To do the daily stuff we forget to be thankful for.  It changed me.  But, I’m walking proof that it’s possible to do hard things after something hard has happened to you.  And often times we don’t like to talk about the hard stuff.

God had a purpose in it, as He does in all things.  I don’t look at things the same way.  Not to say I think of that day all the time, I don’t.  But it did change my perspective.  I think I give myself more grace.  More rest.  More time to step off the Wonder woman podium and just be a perfectly normal imperfect human.  We need rest and nourishment and time to take care of our bodies. So, it almost gave me permission to slow down.

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One day, I might lose these physical abilities.  I might not be able to walk or talk or run.  And my hope is that my happiness is not found in physical abilities I may lose one day.  However, the fact that in the here and now, I’m able to do them, means the world.  I don’t want to waste it.  So, I set big crazy goals that I have no business setting and forge ahead determined to make this time in my life worth it. To live big I guess, as cheesy and lame as that sounds.

One more. So thankful for friends who kept today fun and so much easier hauling 6 kids all over the race course. Nothing quite like the feeling of a race to motivate you to your next goal. #imnext #ironman #ironmanaustin703 #friends #weekendinaustin #racedayfun #kidsdidgreat #untillilacameunhinged #funtimes

Wether it’s a crappy marathon or a stellar 10k.  A relay race down the coast of Oregon or pacing a friend across the finish line of her first half.  It’s a gift.  Training my clients and encouraging them to do their very best in spite of their obstacles blesses ME.  They bless my life.  The most important thing for me is to remember my roots.   What I’m grounded in.  It’s my relationship to Christ, my marriage and my kids.  My family and friends that mean the most.  The physical stuff is a bonus.  That marathon is icing on an already stellar cake but it’s not what I live for.  And this entire experience reminded me of that.  It’s a gift and a blessing and a passion I want to take advantage of, but it’s not everything.

The sweetness of all these things keeps me motivated.  It keeps me driven.  And it keeps me crossing the finish lines.  And you can do the same.  Because you can do hard things friends, I promise.

So be thankful today.  Set hard goals today.  Determine to do your very best to accomplish them in a healthy way.  And don’t be afraid to do hard things.

 

 

 

12 comments on “Life, Running and Racing After a Mini Stroke: My Story

  1. Hi Kelly, thank you for sharing your story. I’m wondering how I can be in contact with you as I just has a similar story 7 months ago and I would love to hear from you and get tips on going back to running/training. Your story inspired me not to give up. thanks

  2. thank you Kylie!! Trying to keep that online life relatable and true to reality….and this is for sure part of my story. Thanks for reading sweet girl!!

  3. Wow! Not that I feel like I know you, but it’s crazy how much “stuff” we all have that our online lives don’t show! You are so brave for sharing and I’m so glad you are able to do all of the things that you love. 🙂

  4. thanks friend…..it’s a sobering thing to realize we are not in fact invincible=) But left me with a lot to be thankful for. And I’m so glad I get you…because I heart you big=)

  5. Kelllly!!!! Oh man what a scary time! I can’t imagine how it felt to be carried off in an ambulance with your kids right there?! Terrifying…

    But so much yes to what followed…. yes it IS a blessing to get to work out, to have a body that can move and run and even (ugh) do burpees – and we have to remember that not everyone can do that, not everyone can even walk to their car and go to the grocery store and lift a jug of milk and kiss their kids goodnight. Thanks for the reminder and for always making me cry just a little bit (in a good “she gets me” sort of way)!

  6. Thanks Karen!! You are so sweet and seriously, always such an encourager to me and it keeps me going!! So thank you=)xoxo I have no doubt when obstacles come your way you would press through….no. doubt.

  7. I love this… You are amazing for moving past this (I fear I would let me anxieties get the best of me) – you are truly a motivation for me! Love the realness of your blog- you’re my fav:)

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