Hello everyone…in my first blog entry I shared the events of that day 8+ weeks ago that would change my life forever…or, more importantly, give me clarity to be thankful that I still have a life! To understand the significance of this it’s important to understand what has defined me as a person and what I have been through.
I started competitive sports at age 7, playing soccer for my local competitive team. It was there that I found that I thrived on pushing myself to the limits. I also met many lifelong friends on those teams. I credit my second coach with instilling that deep drive and competitiveness in me as he pushed us in ways we never thought possible. We ran and trained for hours on end to the point of exhaustion yet we kept coming back for more. I was at my happiest when I was testing just how far I could push myself.
I took this drive and discipline with me throughout my athletic career enjoying a successful soccer, softball, and later volleyball career. It was in high school that I discovered volleyball, our high school coach had seen me at a softball all-star game the summer before and suggested to my brother I try out for the team (he had coached my brother in water polo many years before). I was flattered so I thought I’d give it a try. I was hooked. I played every chance I got and started playing year round my freshman year. I made varsity as a sophomore and had an amazing time playing on both my high school and club teams, again, making many lifelong friends. I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school so I decided to continue playing for our local community college which was one of the top-ranked teams in California at the time. This is where I really feel I blossomed as a player.
Another life changing event also occurred shortly after my freshman year, the loss of my father to a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. My father had been a huge part of my athletic life, having helped coach many of my softball teams, etc. It was at that moment I was determined to never have to rely on someone else after I saw what my mom had to go through trying to pick up the pieces financially and otherwise.
Again, we were tested mentally and physically in ways I never thought possible. We endured 8-hour practice during double days, hours of being pushed and yelled at to be our best, yet we kept coming back for more. It takes a special type of athlete to handle this stress and my teammates and I thrived on it. We went on to finish as state runner-ups both years, and, although we didn’t win state championships we still proved to ourselves that we could do almost anything we set out to do! I was recruited by several schools after my two years at De Anza and chose West Texas A&M University to continue my volleyball career at.
I arrived in the grassy high plains of West Texas in early August to meet my coach and teammates. I remember driving into the Panhandle and thinking, “this certainly isn’t like California”. I was excited about the possibilities but also frightened as I’d never been away from home. Once my teammates and I stepped on the court and started to mesh as a team and as friends it was clear we had great potential. Each and every one of us set aside our individual needs to become part of something bigger, a team. We endured hours upon hours of practice, weight training, studying films, etc. But, in the end, it was all worth it as we walked away with West Texas’ first Div. II National Volleyball Championship in December of 1990.
We had an amazing run that year and the feeling of accomplishing a dream is like no other. Once the shock and awe started to wear off I think each of us understood that we had accomplished something very special and that we may never experience anything like that again.
The summer after that first year at WT brought many changes…we found out while on summer break that our beloved coach was moving on to a Div. I job and we were devastated. We arrived at campus in July to work camps but still didn’t have a new coach lined up. In fact, here we were, National Champions and we didn’t get a new coach until two weeks before the season started. Also, because our school dropped the football program for that year due to financial constraints we were forced to become independent and were not affiliiated with any league. We already had two strikes against us yet we were determined to make the most of it. We had lost our senior leadership and now there were only two seniors, myself, and another.
In many ways, I look upon that season as an even bigger accomplishment because it seems we had so many strikes against us starting out. But, again, we put in countless hours of hard work and it paid of as we went on to win a second National Championship with our new coaching staff.
After those two wonderful years at WT, I continued to fuel my competitive drive by moving back to California to attend nursing school while playing on a competitive women’s club team and trying new sports like triathlons and running. I am not a natural runner or swimmer but I enjoyed doing both sprint and Olympic triathlons for many summers during my 20s.
In 1999 I married my husband and also started graduate school for nursing. Another challenge. It was at this time that I stopped playing volleyball due to time constraints and the physical toll it was taking on my body due to chronic injuries (back, shoulder, knees). Thus, I began a decade of new and different challenges.
On October 1st, 2000, I went to work after spending the weekend moving with a “side cramp”. After working all day with progressively worsening pain my coworker and other assistant manager drove me to Kaiser where it was determined I had appendicitis. Later that night, after working a full shift at the VA I was taking to what would become my first of many surgeries over the past 10 years. My husband dubbed me a “lemon” jokingly, but, boy he had no idea at that time!
Six months later I underwent bilateral fasciotomies for compartment syndrome in both calves caused by running. This is a very rare condition but can be caused when the muscles grow beyond what the fascia can handle. Go figure, it happened to me. But, once this was fixed I was able to begin working out again and even ran a 5K 10 days post-op! I had my active life back, or so I thought.
A year later, as I was walking up the stairs to work, I felt a pop in my knee and it gave out. Another injury. This was the knee that I had torn my posterior cruciate ligament in during my volleyball days at De Anza. A few months of limping around with a brace and I was back in for arthroscopic knee surgery. Three years, three surgeries…this decade wasn’t looking too good!
I was finally back on track and even did a triathlon in the summer of ’04, although, I had a poor performance. I chalked it up to inadequate training, although in hindsight there were other factors.
I became a mother in 2005, a life changing moment that I am so thankful for. On Sept. 15, 2005 my husband and I welcomed our son into this world. He has been our joy ever since. I endured a very difficult pregnancy and birth and after seeing just how difficult it is to raise a child we both decided one was enough.
During my pregnancy I had several episodes of severe chest pain and mid-scapular pain. My doctor and NP chalked it up to GERD and possibly gall bladder disease. I was told to re-evaluate it after my son was born if it returned. We were on vacation at our condo in Palm Springs when my son was 8 months old when it returned with a vengeance. We had eaten at one of our favorite BBQ restaurants there and about 4 hours after dinner the pain and vomiting started. Luckily my mom was with us and she drove me to the hospital in the middle of the night. They worked up my heart but everything was negative so they sent me on my way.
Two days later, when we were home, I had another episode and this time drove myself to Kaiser in the middle of the night. They did an ultrasound and found that I had an inflamed gallbladder. I was scheduled for surgery six weeks later (they wanted to give it time to calm down). Now I really was looking like a lemon…in six years I was on my fourth surgery!
The next four years went by with various challenges of balancing work, raising a child, as well as some weird health symptoms (“heartburn”, frequent sinus infections, etc.). It seemed I could never get fit and no matter how hard I tried working out was always difficult. I chalked it up to being overweight, out of shape, whatever. Little did I know it was probably my heart all along. As you read my first entry, on March 24, 2010, it became glaringly clear it was my heart. And, as you can see from my past athletic history it is truly a miracle I am still alive. My type of anomaly (anomalous right coronary artery) often causes sudden death among athletes…but, for some reason I’m still here. And, boy, am I thankful!