I am a daughter, a mother of two sons, a grandmother of four, a girlfriend…and I’m a four-time stroke survivor. No one could ever have prepared me for the obstacles life threw at me 18 years ago when I had my first stroke at age 39. It started with a severe headache, which I was told by my doctor was just a migraine. It persisted, so I went to the ER and all I remember is waking up to my sister (who lived in Dallas) and my father (who lived in Florida) telling me that I had a stroke, that I had been in a coma, and that they were told I wasn’t going to make it through the night.
A stroke, I thought? But I didn’t fit the criteria! I was young…I walked two miles every day at work…I was healthy! How could something that started out as a headache completely turn my life upside down, without me having any control over it? No one should ever have to experience this horrible disease.
I was discharged after my first stroke with home-based rehab. A few months later, I had three more strokes at home and went blind in one eye before I could even get to the hospital. As a result, I had to endure several very long months of inpatient rehab, which frankly were some of the worst times of my life. Knowing that I had two young boys and a husband at home was my inspiration to do 110% each and every day so that I could get home to my family.
The simplest everyday tasks become some of the greatest challenges when you have a stroke. I had to relearn everything, but the most difficult part was learning how to become a mom and a “normal” person all over again. Thankfully, my loving husband, Jimmy, was my support system every step of the way.
When I look back on the past sixteen years, there were plenty of reasons for me to give up. Not only did I suffer from four strokes, but I lost my husband to cancer a few years later. But my family was the inspiration I needed to get me through these most challenging of times. I am a fighter and I was determined to prove to myself that I could overcome the physical, emotional and mental challenges of a stroke. That’s where the American Heart/American Stroke Association came in. I made it my mission to be a voice to help raise awareness about stroke and inspire others to get involved and the American Heart/American Stroke Association helped me to achieve this. So, in honor of my late-husband Jimmy, I ran the Train to End Stroke ½ marathon in Hawaii in 2:42, which happened to also be the first Father’s Day without Jimmy. I also ran marathons in Phoenix, San Diego, and Disney, all in honor of my family.
Over the years, I have involved myself in many American Heart/American Stroke Association activities, such as Go Red, Power to End Stroke and of course, Advocacy. I encourage all You’re the Cure advocates to learn the warning signs of a stroke. You never know whose life you might save by knowing the warning signs.