As you all can tell, I love working out. I love running, I love weightlifting, I love living a healthy lifestyle.
I started this journey in 2011 and had reached my goal weight in early 2012. I kept the weight off for a year. In February 2013, my life changed in a pretty tragic way. I was maintaining my 90+ pound weight loss, and I was strength training to gain muscle. At the same time, I was working full time as a CNA. I loved my job and I loved being in the gym.
One day before work, I was getting up from taking a nap on the couch. I was exhausted from working a long shift the day before, and immediately going to the gym thereafter. As I was getting up from the couch, I felt the most horrible pain in the world. My spine felt like it had collapsed on itself. I pushed through the pain and tried to make it to work. A mile down the road from the house, I was still in agony. The pain was so bad that I was nauseous and seeing double. There was no way I would make it to work in this condition, so I called out and went to walk-in. I rested for a few days and went back to work. I was still in a ton of pain, but I was determined to tough it out, even if it meant asking my co-workers for help.
A month later, the pain was so bad I had trouble walking. The first time that happened, I was at home and I nearly collapsed on the floor. I couldn't put weight on my legs at all. It was then I knew that this was serious. I took time off of work so I could figure out what was going on. It took months to find a doctor who would take me seriously. In between all of the chaos, there were days at a time where I couldn't walk. I was terrified. I also entered into depression. I had gotten down to a good weight, so weight couldn't be blamed for my spine issues. I was eating enough each day, so I wasn't overeating or under-eating. I couldn't figure it out!
During the second half of 2013 and early 2014, I did all of the conservative treatments: physical therapy, injections, keeping weight low (I had gained 20 pounds due to depression), and more. In March of 2014, I was scheduled to have a discogram (it's a procedure where doctors inject dye into all your spinal discs in order to inflict pain. This is how they find diseased discs). When they got to my L4 and L5 discs, I was in the most excruciating pain imaginable (it was worse than labor). I had to bite down on a towel so I didn't scream at the top of my lungs. At the same time, I felt validated, because now I had proof that I was in pain. The neurosurgeon immediately cleared me for my first spinal fusion.
The surgery was pretty scary, and I had hope that it would work. Sadly it didn't. I developed a complication called pseudarthrosis (failure to fuse). I became depressed again, and the depression led to me losing the love of my life. I drank, started cutting myself, and even contemplated suicide. I decided to enter treatment for depression and I completed the program. I was feeling better than I had in a long time. In 2016, I resumed my weight loss journey. I went slow because of my continuing back issues, but in early 2017, I was much smaller, and in better shape for my second spinal surgery. During this time, I was dating a really nice guy and he was with me every step of the way. Within a few months of the surgery, I was pain free. This was a huge deal because I was in moderate to severe pain everyday for several years. I started working out again and I went back to my love of running. During this time, I felt on top of the world. Everything I hoped for and dreamed for had come true. Then, the guy I had been dating broke up with me. I was sad, and a month after that, I hung out with a guy I had known for over a decade. In September of 2017, I found out I was pregnant.
The pregnancy, combined with my surgically repaired spine, didn't mix well, and I was on restricted activity for a long time. I lost jobs because I was on restricted activity, and was in physical therapy for a few months. In May of 2018, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. About 5 and a half weeks later, I was back in the gym. I started off slow for a while, and then I build up my intensity. Now, I am back to running, I am lifting heavy, and I am getting into the best shape of my life.
I have come a long way. From being practically disabled with a spinal injury, to running, I can't help but feel so proud. As of this post, I am already at my pre-pregnancy size, and I'm 5 months postpartum.
The whole point of sharing my story is to let people know that anything is possible. If you believe in yourself, have faith, and know your limitations, you can achieve anything. After a major spinal injury, and a tough pregnancy, I never dreamed I'd be the strongest I've ever been.
While running is my go-to cardio, running is also my therapy. I feel free when I'm running. While I love being a mom, being a single mom stresses me out. If it weren't for running, I would still be having panic attacks.
If you have an injury, please don't give up on yourself. You have the power within you to achieve the impossible. Don't let an injury stop you from living. Believe in yourself. Start slow, don't beat yourself up if you can't keep up with other people. Showing up is what matters. Show up for your life. You got this!
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