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RADJournals: Kirstin Bernaeyge overcame spinal surgery & a brain aneurysm to get back to running despite being told to hang up her running shoes years ago by doctors.

Whenever I’m asked, “how long have you been running?” I never quite know how to answer this question. I never thought of myself as a “runner”. I was overweight as a child and into most of my adolescent/teen years, I started walking and running as a form of exercise to battle my sadness and depression. A year into my journey I encountered a hard stop medically. A team of  specialists advised me that due to a spinal condition after an injury I would most likely need to hang up my running  shoes. “Just my luck”, I said to myself because I finally had found something I enjoyed for me and now I wouldn't be able to do it. In late 2017 I had spinal surgery to address my condition and I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t give up. I really started to like how I felt about myself when I was out there on the pavement so giving up wasn’t an option. 

 

Shortly after that promise was made (one month to be exact) a condition in my brain set me back yet another giant step. When I was sure my running shoes saw their last light of day and my mental state hit rock bottom with no hope of return, I looked at the faces of my beautiful girls and said “NOPE”. This condition will not define me. My girls need a happy, healthy mom and the person I saw in the mirror wasn’t that.

Coming to terms with it was one of my most critical steps in my journey of healing. I’m learning to accept it and not surrender to it because, like I said, giving up was not an option. I took the necessary time I needed off from running and let my feelings run their course as there’s nothing worse than trying to fake a positive state of mind. I then began to trust the process and I started back walking when I was cleared from my surgical teams and things started to become smoother. Walking turned into jogging and jogging back into running. I began to settle into a new routine and the running shoes I was once told to hang up are now being put to very good use. I ran my first marathon back in 2019 after both spinal surgery and a brain aneurysm - each day is something new and I truly feel that finding acceptance in the uncertainty and surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and support you is so important. You can heal yourself and find ways to overcome whatever life throws your way.

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