For those of you that have followed my blog, you know that I have a strong commitment to my health. I eat well (most of the time), exercise as often as I’m able (not as much as I’d like), and I stay focused on the positive. Throughout most of my life, I have experienced few health issues other than pregnancy and delivery and few minor things here and there. However, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a situation where I listened closely to my body and realized it wasn’t happy.
Since starting my job last February, there is no doubt my activity level isn’t where I’d like it to be, but I squeeze in exercise 3x per week. I have held pretty tight to eating well, though many meetings that include eating out make it tough, even if I feel like I’m making the right decision. There’s been stress in my life, recent passing of my Dad and situations at work that come with the territory, but all in all, I feel pretty good. However, two weeks ago, that all changed.
I woke up and found myself nauseous and dizzy. Dizzy spells are not uncommon with me, I blame it on the barometric pressure. But nausea never accompanied my “dizzies”. I sat down in front of my make-up mirror and felt clammy. Not hot flash clammy, heart attack clammy and then I looked at my clock radio and couldn’t read the time. I knew something was wrong. I said to my husband, “Something is not right, something is not right.” We immediately went to the ER. By the time I got to the hospital and into a room, my speech was all but gone and my body felt like dead weight. I could barely move my legs, arms and head. Panic set in and I knew I was likely experiencing a stroke. My grandfather suffered a stroke in his latter 30’s and part of my commitment to health and fitness was to avoid that scenario, but here I was. The nurse kept asking me questions and my effort to say one word was the most difficult thing I can recall doing in recent history. And then the thoughts started going through my mind, “I’m never going to walk again. My husband is going to spend the rest of his life taking care of me, and I’m the healthy one!” Every negative scenario ran through my mind. I’ve never been more frightened than I was that morning.
I had a CT scan, MRI, loads of blood work, and on and on and they found nothing. By late afternoon, my speech was back to normal and my strength had returned as well. What happened? What caused it? The fact that the weakness in my body wasn’t bilateral ruled out a stroke. Ultimately the neurosurgeon called it a, “Seizure phenomenon.” Hmmm, well that doesn’t tell me much other than they don’t know what caused it. I ran a half marathon two days prior, could it have triggered something? The stress over the past year, could it be that? Who knows?
What I do know is that I didn’t ignore symptoms just because I take care of myself. We know that women die more often from heart attacks and strokes because they ignore the symptoms. No matter how healthy you are, listen to your body, pay attention to abnormal feelings and get them checked out.
The one thing that was found was a bump in an artery in the brain scan they want to check out. But I’m also following up with an internist per a suggestion from a friend that isn’t happy with the “phenomenon” diagnosis and thinks I should exhaust all avenues. Likely not a bad idea.
I have always taken pride in how I care for my health, but we know many people that have been as healthy as a horse yet dropped dead of a heart attack or some freak accident. So, was this a life altering experience? Will I start paying closer attention to my bucket list? Well, yes and no.
1. I don’t do bucket lists because I spend too much time stressing over checking things off! I’d rather follow what’s in my heart and make it happen.
2. I realize that the stress in our lives is often brought on by assumptions and unrealistic perceived outcomes. Reduce stress by reducing assumptions and stop trying to write the future.
3. I realize that no matter how healthy I am, the body gets tired and high intense exercise and a strict diet isn’t’ always what’s best for the body or mind, it needs a break from time to time. I need to know that taking a walk instead of heading out for a run is fine too and some days better for my mind/body. That gelato, or chocolate that I’ve been avoiding is not the end of the world if I cave in and enjoy. I’ve been teaching for years that moderation is the best way to live. I need to heed my own advice vs. my all or nothing compulsions.
4. Tell your family you love them every day and try to spend more quality time with them. My kids spent two solid days with me at the hospital. We played games, we reminisced and laughed, a lot. If you haven’t downloaded the app from the Ellen Show, Heads Up, do it today. It’s a blast for all ages.
5. Slow down! Even as I type, I type fast and hard. My personality is somewhat like a bull in a china shop, not always, but more often than not. I push hard and when I have a task to complete, I give at least 100%. I need to learn that slow and steady works sometimes too. Assess situations, and don’t view every task as a crisis that needs immediate handling.
6. Ask for help. Women are the worst at that. I have always been someone that would rather do it all myself, despite the challenges. Heaven forbid I should look weak, right? Well actually for me it’s not the case. I’ve been on my own for so long, I just learned to do everything myself. Life is give and take. I can’t do it all and I shouldn’t expect to do it all (See #2). Ask for help and offer help, it’s a pretty solid way to live.
7. An attitude of gratitude. I have written in many of my blogs my gratitude for being able to go out and run when I feel like it, or exercise whenever I want because I have full use of my body. How lucky I am. After this recent scare, now more than ever, I am incredibly aware of how grateful I am for the ability to speak (maybe my family doesn’t love that one!), the ability to move without restriction and the strength to do every day tasks without limitation. I’M THE LUCKIEST GAL IN THE WORLD!
Moral of the story: No matter how healthy you are, especially women, never, ever ignore unusual symptoms. Your body is trying to tell you something, LISTEN! There is no guarantee that being healthy means you’re immune from illness or disease. Live every day like it is your last, love with your full heart, be kind to yourself and others and move your body because you can.
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it.