Long story short, 22 years ago my personal life changed forever, both mentally and physically. I entered the ORMC Hospital ICU Bed in Orlando, FL at 200 pounds and barely came out alive at 160. What started as a cough and wheezing noise in my throat turned into full-blown pneumonia and a whole slew of other issues.
The things I remember most are 15 oral surgeries trying to clear the water from my lungs that almost completely cut off my oxygen supply. However, I also remember the love and support of my family and friends locally and from all over the world that helped me pull through. A month in, a doctor tried to save me by clearing the fluid with another tube down my throat, but couldn’t. This was followed by our priest coming in to say a soon to be gone forever prayer, and then giving goodbyes to everyone who came in.
I sat there and thought about what I would change and do differently if I could just make it out alive somehow. So I prayed and said to myself that if there is any way I do make it out, I’m going to stress less, work smarter, not harder, take much better care of myself, live and celebrate life to the fullest, and give back to the community like there’s no tomorrow.
Luckily, God and two miracle doctors gave me that second chance. The thing was, the only real chance I had wasn’t through the throat. Instead, it was to cut 10 permanent inches in my back, open me up, and clear all the problems that way. What did I have to lose?
Before I went under the knife, I was warned of two things.
1. That I wouldn’t wake up.
2. That some things inside of me would no longer be there, including potentially pre-cancerous lymph nodes in my stomach.
I was nervous, but I was also no longer the same person since my entire life came flashing before my eyes. I went to sleep and six full hours later I woke up to my mom standing in front of me telling me I was still alive and going to make it through. Then came the nurses and the doctors because they knew what was coming.
I had just one question and one question only. My biggest fear going in became my biggest reality. I had to ask repeatedly before I got a straight answer, “Were you able to save both my lungs?” Unfortunately the answer was no. My left lung was no longer functioning. It was destroyed by all it was put through months prior.
After yet another difficult month of recovery and pain, I was able to go back into the real world. At my follow-up appointment, the doctor went through the motions of how my life would be different. The only thing I still remember is him saying I was going to be fine, but I will most likely never jog or run a marathon or race ever again.
From there I went about my life, running and owning a newspaper for 10 years, followed by a franchise business for 3, and public speaking. My real passion though is my event company, “I’m in. Events.” The company puts together large networking, charity, and wellness events throughout Central Florida and beyond. For example, we have coordinated the largest Black and White Weekend for Charity and Wellness in the World every May, raising money for BASE Camp kids with cancer for 12 incredible years now.
In between all that, I did a lot of traveling and had a lot of fun in the process celebrating my new life, but there was just one thing I couldn’t get over. Being told and thinking that I couldn’t do a race, but deep down I truly felt it was time to finally try one.
It took me a while to get into a consistent fitness routine, but I teamed up with many trainers, crossfit facilities, nutritionists, and people in the mud race community. In 2012, I entered my first ever 5K for the American Lung Association. I mostly walked it with many of “Team I’m in.” race mates who helped encourage and walk me through the finish line. Needless to say, once I passed through the end of the 3 miles, proving to myself and others that I could do it, I walked off to the farthest corner I could find and cried like never before. I spent 12 years thinking I couldn’t with my lung condition and I did it. This was a big accomplishment for me and inspired so many others to join me in the next one… and the next… and the next.
Fast forward to Saturday, December 11, 2021. After completing nearly a dozen races, I came across the ultimate one, in my opinion. The longest, hardest, toughest race of my life at 44 years old and 22 years removed from lung surgery. The Tough Mudder 15K. A 15k, with over 25 Obstacles and 9 miles. Most people won’t ever attempt to do this in their lifetime, but they definitely should.
Having read so many other peoples stories of triumph within the Mudder community and training as best I could, I can honestly say choosing to do this race was the ultimate test for me. I am certain that if I can do it with half the lung capacity of a normal human being, anyone can at full capacity. While walking, jogging, and running through the Tough Mudder 15K, I met so many wonderful people along the way, from all over the U.S., with the same goal as me: To test ourselves to the fullest and have fun in the process. This was by far my proudest and most accomplished moment to date. I know now more than ever, anything is possible.
Thank you Tough Mudder.