RADJournals: Brittany Taft, triple stroller mom, overcoming chronic illness and brain surgery
I’m a mother of twin girls, with a fifteen-month apart daughter. I’m known in my area as the triple stroller mom, and nationally through Stroller Strong Moms as well. I have always been a runner. I ran in elementary school all the way to the start of my college career. I also suffer from a chronic illness known as Arnold Chiari Malformation that was diagnosed my sophomore year of high school when I blacked out in English class. Coming from a small town in West Virginia, my illness was not well known and it took a while to figure out the proper diagnosis. If you don’t know what Arnold Chiari Malformation is, the short answer is that my brain is too big for my skull causing pressure along my spine and cutting the nerve off in my spine. My neurologist originally told me that my illness was migraines even though it took a black out to make them look further into the symptoms I was experiencing. Think of your worst migraines and multiply by 100. No amount of medicine (even IV) would fix it. My vision was in and out, and there were times I would need assistance to even sit up. My symptoms became progressively worse as I got older, but no matter what I always kept running when I could. Running helped me think of something other than the pain. Running didn’t fix the pain, but it did help me cope.
While pregnant with my first child, my life was turned upside down not only due to being put on bed rest from running, but my illness became more pronounced each trimester with the added pressure of the baby. Bed rest repeated during my pregnancy with my twins with other complications arising as well. After pregnancy I took on running again and still pushed through my pain. I was on blood pressure medicine to see if it will work with my symptoms, but it took seeing a Chiari specialist in Georgia to finally help. This year I had brain surgery, where they removed part of my skull and my C1 spine. Before my surgery I schedule every race I could, and convinced my neurosurgeon to wait another week so I could run what I thought would be my last run Gate River. Not only did I have my family support and close friends there, but my run community or what I call "Run Family" had my back! They threw surprise parties, meal trains, and even found a new triple jogger to encourage me that this wasn’t my last run.
Surgery went well and even though it’s not a cure, it helps relieve many symptoms I experienced over the years. I am making my way back to running. I was medically cleared to return and competed in my first post-surgery, the Peach Tree Road Race without much training. Thankfully, you wouldn’t even know I’m missing a portion of my skull and spine. Running has continued to help me cope with any setbacks I experience in my life and I’m grateful to have people in my life to support me as my run family did.