Cassie Perry – Fighting the Fears
Cassie Perry is a mother of six. The former NFL cheerleader owns a fitness business. She suffered a stroke on the eve of her 39th birthday and a second stroke a few weeks later. She has vowed to use her experience to help educate other women.
I will never forget the sound of the cardiologist’s voice ringing in my ears as he confirmed my fears - “You have suffered a stroke.” Even though I knew it was likely the outcome that I had been preparing myself to hear, I still felt time stand still as the realization set in-this really did happen to me. This was a part of my story from this chapter on.
Sure, I knew I had all the symptoms I’d read about as I scrolled through social media posts. I had a feeling that this migraine was different. But a stroke?? Isn’t that for older people? I only just turned 39 last night. Wouldn’t I have had to have pre-existing heart conditions I was aware of, diabetes or perhaps a chronic smoker? I own, actively teach and run a fitness studio every day. I was an NFL cheerleader. I have raised three kids as a single mom and run after them every day for 10+ and never was winded-well, maybe a few times! But I’m healthy. I’m normal.
I’m not that girl.
But suddenly amongst the hospital lighting and trendy gown/socks combo staring down at me-I was. My badge became that of a “survivor.” I was one (and am) of the lucky ones. A miracle. I walked out of the hospital on both of my legs without obvious damage to my exterior and later we would find that my cognitive functioning was going be ok, too.
However, even if I am standing on this side of the fence, literally and figuratively, no one prepared me for the fear that would take the place of the clot that had settled in my brain. That although I was flooded with gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose for this life I was gifted, I was also paralyzed with the thought that it could happen again-and maybe I would not be walking away quite as fortunate. Even after the small hole in my heart was fixed (PFO) and I was given the assurance this should never happen again, I still was/am hyper-aware of every symptom out of the norm that my body feels at times. Whereas most 40 somethings just accept that hey-my body is getting older and things are bound to feel different right - my heart races a little more at the thought it may be another stroke.
And you know what? That’s ok. It’s normal to feel scared of the things we cannot control - whether it is our health, our emotions or our current life situation facing us from whatever side of the fence you face. Whether you survived one or multiple stokes or even another heart-related condition it doesn’t mean you can’t feel both tremendously blessed and also justified in your anxiety as a result.
However, as a survivor, I also do believe we were given another shot in the game…a chance to show up everyday and champion for others as well as ourselves. So I am choosing to use my fear as fuel to ignite action. Create awareness. Advocate and share my strong. Will I ever feel 100% “safe?” Most likely not. Most of the big stuff in life that alters ours in such a way was never meant to-instead we can choose to propel forward and use our own “change” to make a difference in someone else’s life as well.
I’m going to be that girl.
Make sure you check out these secondary stroke prevention tools and resources from the American Stroke Association.