It was cold as I sat in the emergency room waiting for the results of my MRI. When the doctor came in and told me I had another brain bleed, oddly this time I was relieved. You see my epic surf adventure doesn’t start in some far-off land. It started with me suffering from my third brain bleed and mustering up the courage to get back in the water at my local break again.
In February of 2021 after suffering for two months with daily migraines I found out from the emergency room doctor that I had suffered yet another brain bleed. It was not completely shocking since I had my first bleed at the age of 10 and already knew of my condition. I was born with a genetic defect called Cavernous Angioma. This condition causes the veins in my brain to become weak and bleed. My first bleed in 1992 resulted in me having seizures, my second bleed in 2015 resulted in vision loss and my third bleed in 2021 left me with painful daily migraines.
At first, when I heard the news I was relieved to have an answer for why I was in pain every day. As time went on though I started to feel very anxious about my health and how it would restrict me from surfing. I suffered from not only daily migraine pain, but extreme light sensitivity, eye pain, ear pain, and the fear of having a seizure while surfing. At times I even felt that it would be easier to just give up on the idea of surfing altogether because it was just too painful wondering if I would ever be able to feel good enough to surf again.
My husband was a constant source of encouragement during these difficult times. I expressed to him my fears of ever being able to surf again. He constantly encouraged me to remain positive and to not live in fear. I will be continually grateful for him, my family, and to all of my friends for their support during those difficult days.
Slowly I got better. At first, because of the light sensitivity, I could only go to the beach for about an hour once a week. I would go armed with my sunglasses, big hat, and beach tent. I would then sit under my tent for about an hour or until I felt my migraine pain coming on . Even though I wasn’t able to stay long, it felt so good to be at the beach. I was grateful to be able to breathe in the salt air and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.
After a couple of months I could stay much longer at the beach. One day I even got brave enough to go back in the water. Not surfing, just swimming. Oh, that felt so good! It was just a quick swim, but being in the water started to give me more confidence that I could get back on my board again.
And then one day I went surfing. I will never forget that day. It couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a beautiful day, small perfect glassy waves and surfing with my favorite people, my family. I really don’t think I had planned on going out that morning. When I saw how perfect the waves were I just could not resist! There I was surfing for the first time in months and it felt amazing. I only caught a few waves and then decided to come in because I wasn’t sure how much my body could handle, but I did it !! After that session, I felt even more confident that I could be a regular in the lineup again.
Even though I have been surfing for many years I still look like a beginner. You see, over the years health problems have kept me out of the water for long periods of time. It can be discouraging to have health setbacks that keep you out of the water. Just when you feel like you’re making progress, BAM, another health issue that’s going to slow you down from progressing in your surfing. In a way, you always feel like you’re starting over. I am sure some of you out there can relate.
If you are reading this and are struggling with a health issue I want you to know that in time it will pass and you will be able to surf again. I know it doesn’t seem like it now when you feel horrible and you can barely make it off the couch. Maybe you’re in a situation where an illness is over, but it kept you out of the water for so long that you lost your confidence or drive to get back in the water. If you keep a positive outlook and start slow, soon enough you will be back surfing again! Believe me, if I can do it, so can you!
I continued to make progress with my health and currently, I no longer have daily migraine pain. I try to get out surfing once a week and just got a good report from my neurosurgeon that my brain is healing well. I am grateful for my health and that I never gave up on surfing. My hope is that my story inspires all of you out there who are struggling with your health. Whether it is a chronic condition or a short-term bump in the road. Don’t ever let it rob you of the joy of being in the ocean.