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I had a stroke at 30.

It was Saturday, leg day – my usual routine. I went in with a slight headache, but nothing I couldn’t work through. Headaches were always common for me, so I hardly thought twice. Midway through the workout, however, the pain got so bad it brought me to tears. I left the gym, disappointed I couldn’t finish my workout. I told the front desk staff I’d be back later.

Several hours later I woke up from a nap, and my entire right arm down to my wrist and fingers weren’t moving properly, or in conjunction with the other. Weird I thought, but surely it would go away as the migraine subsided. The following day it wasn’t any better. I could hardly wash my hair or grip anything, and intuition tells us when something just isn’t right. Having suffered from epilepsy since my teenage years, I thought I’d better call the doctor. On Monday, (after hitting the gym, of course), I called and he instructed me to go to the emergency room. I thought this was a bit crazy but reluctantly went to the ER.

Several tests later, it was determined my brain had suffered a stroke. This seemed impossible to me, and as I was replaying the day’s events in my head over and over, trying to piece things together, I felt like my body had failed me – or vice versa.

A stroke diagnosis is devastating, and as an athlete, a bodybuilder and personal trainer, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. My life is movement, and I felt like it was being taken away from me. I continued to lift weights, because I had to keep active even if it was a struggle. My dad told me it was going to be okay, but that I had to be strong. There was no other option.

The psychological effects after a stroke are very challenging as well. I still search for a why, and struggle with whether or not I somehow could have prevented this. It’s having constant fear of your body rebelling, and is one more thing I will have to work through.

Weight lifting, the gym, and my little bodybuilding community have been a blessing. We push, we fight, and we don’t give up. I gained a lot of control and coordination back in my arm, so I know it’s possible to recover. It’s not easy, and it is painful, but you have to try. You have to dig deep and find that strength. You can, and you will.

Currently, I don’t have any answers as to why this happened, but I remind myself to stay positive  because, after all, I still have my life. If this situation can motivate anyone to keep fighting, and if it gets someone through some tough times, even one person, then that’s good enough reason for me.

By Bridget Tobin, HealthEase fitness specialist