Robert M.


It's about the journey ahead

I am a stroke survivor. I am a stroke survivor who finished a 26.2 mile run and who has completed seven 13.1 miles runs

You may have seen me between 6pm and 8pm every evening in Lewisville Texas (suburb of Dallas): a 47-year-old employee of a mortgage company, running past pedestrians and parked cars with my training partner, my wife Jennifer.

On February 3rd, 2013, I will hit the streets of Dallas (Irving) Texas with other runners in the Texas Half (marathon) & 5K. I look just like all the other runners on this clear day.
Except for one thing, 13 years ago I couldn't walk, I had lost control and strength in my limbs, and I had severe dizziness and unsteadiness. At one point, my family and my doctors were not sure if I would make it through the night. I am a stroke survivor. I am a stroke survivor who finished a 26.2 mile (2005 Los Angeles Marathon) run and who has completed seven 13.1 miles (2005 America Finest City Half Marathon (San Diego), 2006 OC ? Marathon, 2008 Dallas White Rock Half Marathon, 2008 San Antonio Rock 'N' Roll ? Marathon, 2012 Metro PCS Dallas Half Marathon, 2013 Walt Disney World ? Marathon) runs.

While at work in 1998, my life was suddenly changed. First I felt dizzy, then I couldn't stop sweating, and soon I became paralyzed on one side of my body. I thought I was a healthy man. I thought I had a cold, not a stroke. Six years later I found myself running past the Staple Center in downtown Los Angeles with less than two miles to the finish. 13 years later I am getting ready to complete my 3rd half marathon in three months (2012 Metro PCS Dallas Half Marathon, 2013 Walt Disney World ? Marathon and the 2013 Texas Half & 5K). Running is a great equalizer. It does not matter who you are or what you do in your other life. It's about the journey ahead.

In Feb 2005, I wrote Chris Carmichael who is a retired professional cyclist and cycling, triathlon and endurance sports coach as well as the founder of Carmichael Training Systems. He is also known for being the personal coach to cyclist Lance Armstrong my ("Hero of Hope"). Mr. Carmichael wrote me back before I competed in the City of Los Angeles 20th Anniversary Marathon and said,

As a coach, I have worked with a handful of cancer survivors including Lance Armstrong. When Lance first made his comeback from cancer, there was a time when he was so discouraged that he considered giving up racing altogether. However, Lance overcame his demons... At the beginning of his journey, Lance never could have guessed the impact his survival from cancer would have on the rest of the world. And his survival from cancer will become as much a part of history as his impact on the Tour de France.
In hearing your story, I can see that you have this same survivor attitude that I witnessed in Lance. You've been tested in many ways. You fought and worked hard to win your body back. You strive to push yourself whether it is through physical therapy or endurance racing. As a survivor and advocate, you have the ability to change lives and inspire others. Undoubtedly, you have already touched many lives through your example and Determination.

I am one of the lucky few stroke survivors who have recovered most of their functions. During the stroke, my left side of my body became paralyzed, my speech became slurred, and then my balance was gone. It was like being on a roller-coaster ride. I had no warning; I had no symptoms.

My recovery was relatively fast. I had many difficult months, but with the help of the San Diego Rehabilitation Institute, my family, friends, letter of inspiration from people like Mr. Carmichael. Like Lance Armstrong's I also fought and worked hard to win my body back.

I was able to return to work full time in five months and have since made an almost complete recovery.

"It's about the journey ahead".

My stroke was diagnosed as Wallenberg Syndrome. The inner lining of the arty on the right side of my neck dissected and began to bleed into my brain. Most people with this syndrome are 20-30 years old and have no prior stroke risk. The experience was terrifying. I am very fortunate that I was quickly taken to a nearby hospital and received immediate diagnosis and treatment.

Every year, more than half a million American suffer a stroke. Stroke is the 3rd most common cause of death in the United States. Stroke accounts for about 1 of every 16 deaths in the US and it causes a death every 3-4 minutes. Recognizing the symptoms of stroke and getting appropriate medical attention as quickly as possible are the keys to reducing the long term impact.

I want to run not only for me but also for other stroke survivors who have shared a similar experience. And I especially want to run for those stroke survivors who are not able to run. I realize I am extremely lucky, but I feel awareness needs to increase among people my age regarding stroke and stroke prevention


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