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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why bother? Hmmm....

The PRO fitness program: A Works employee and I were talking at length one day about my lack of motivation. “I do like to run, I can’t play sports and I don’t want to do another physique challenge. I am goal orientated and without one I feel lost.” After talking more we parted ways. A month later she approached me. “I think I may have a solution to your motivation problem.” She told me about PRO and offered a trade. For being one of the first people to try PRO I would get 2 sessions a week for 12 weeks in exchange blog about my experience. Let’s do this!

A Little About Me: I played Rugby in College and football while getting my masters. I have a stroke at the age of 25. I completed a marathon and have done 3 physique challenges, only walking in one. For most of my life I have been fairly active. More at some times and less at other times. I have struggled with body issues my whole life. I am seeking peace. Not a magic number. I will not have a six pack. I will always be a curvy girl because that is how I am built. More than that I would not want to forgo all the little pleasures in life to make that happen. I would be miserable with no coffee, flour or sugar. That is not what I am seeking. I am seeking to change my mind set. To silence my inner judge. To embrace health. To feel good.

A Little More About My Stroke: In 2002 I had a severe stroke. In some ways it feels like just yesterday and in other ways it feels like it was forever ago. At 25, I had graduated in May with a Masters in Social Work. Matthew Wentworth, my boyfriend since the age of 19, and I had wed. I was working full time in Portland, Maine counseling teenagers at a high school for trouble adolescents. Matthew and I were working holidays and some weekends saving to buy a home. I was also playing professional woman’s football as a defensive end. This had become my biggest passion, a great outlet for the many emotions I would gather within me throughout my day at work. I was in the best of health, working out every day. Life was definitely good and seemed to hold a kind of guarantee - a future of wonderful possibilities.

The day after Christmas, I became ill very suddenly. My doctor assumed it was the flu. The next day, it was obvious I was suffering from more than dehydration, and I was taken to the emergency room. The admitting nurse decided it was most likely drug use and would not even supply a wheelchair. My parents helped me into the emergency room. After hours of running tests, numerous misdiagnoses, they realized I had had a very severe stroke. Surgery would have to be performed, and quickly. My life was, at best, questionable.
I was rushed to Maine Medical Center to have an emergency craniotomy. I had a clot in my brain and half my cerebellum had died. The swelling in my brain was pushing against my skull and beginning to cause frontal lobe damage. I had an amazing surgeon who promised my family he would do his best to save me. For a couple of weeks my survival was unknown. I had to pass many benchmarks over the next few weeks. I am happy to say that I emerged triumpt.
During 3 months of inpatient rehabilitation and 7 months of outpatient rehabilitation, I began to become the person I am today. I had to relearn how to talk, walk, tie my shoes, write, and, finally, how to drive again after 10 months. I was right handed and now I am left-handed.
I survived my surgery, but lost so much. I lost the ability to walk, talk, tie my shoes, drive, I was right handed and my right side was dramatically affected. After three month of inpatient care I began to regain my abilities on a basic level. Persistence on my part and the part of my therapists were vital to how far I recovered. 
I slurred my words. My word recall and internal dictionary was almost nonexistent. I was recorded reading articles and then played them back to pick out the mistakes. Over time my speech began to clear. I am a spokesperson for the American Heart and Stroke Association. I would not have the voice I do today, the word retrieval, or the ability to communicate so effectively and hopefully change people lives with my story, without so much work.
I was given a journal to write in each day. I was right handed and had become left handed. As you flip the pages through my journal you can see my writing improving. Going from cat scratches to what is now a legible handwriting. You also see less and less red marks from my therapist correcting my journal. Slowly I began to learn from the mistakes I had made in my writing.
At times there were three people helping me to walk; one to swing my arms, one to move my feet, and one to make sure I was upright and talk me through it. I went from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, to freedom. December 2005, 3 years after my stroke, I ran the Train to End Stroke Marathon in Honolulu Hawaii. 26.2 miles of blood, sweat, and tears that I never would have, or could have, done without training.
I have gained so much. I would NEVER be where I am today with being in top physical shape. So many people say they can’t believe I had a stroke so young and in such great shape. That’s not how I look at it. I was in such great shape which is why I can’t write this today. Why I can pick up my daughter. Why I can lift at the gym. I can do everything of every moment in my day because I was in such great shape. They say to be healthy so that you don’t have illness or disease strike you. I would add to that. Be healthy so that if illness or disease strike you can FIGHT it with all you have. 

 (Are you still reading?!  We at The Works as super excited to have Barbara chronicle her time in the Pro Fitness Program!   We'll be posting every few days!  Feel free to comment and let us know what other topics you'd like to hear about!  :)  -Millissa, Membership Department)


  1. Such an inspiring story....very well written. I think this is a great in :)

  2. Love you Babs! An inspiring story to be sure. And a great idea for this blog!!!