by Jude Jacob Kayton March 12, 2019
Hey Everyone! I'm a California girl now loving life on my small urban farm on the East Coast. I am a retired fitness model turned yoga addict and even though I may have traded in dumbbells for a yoga mat and photoshoots for chicken coops, both beauty and fitness are still super important aspects in my life. I believe that a happy life is all about evolving and adapting and that every day truly is a gift.
October 8, 2017, was a beautiful fall day. That morning I was on my front porch practicing a pretty intense type of yoga handstand called a "hollowback" handstand. This pose requires you to extend your neck, drop your hips back and arch your lower spine all while upside down in a handstand.
I remember thinking that I had really nailed the pose that morning but as I walked inside to my house, my peripheral vision went out and the rest of my vision became blurry like a curtain was coming down and all around me. I chalked it up to being upside down for so long. I sat down and tried to put my hair in a ponytail but my left arm flopped around without any control. I could not, for the life of me, control the movement of my arm. I thought "that's strange", but since I had been diagnosed with severely herniated discs in my neck, I knew that arm numbness could be a symptom of that.
Two days later, my right eye drooped. It was noticeable and terrifying. It was then that I knew something was very, very wrong. We went to the emergency room and an MRI was done of my brain. The doctor on staff said, "Well, you, my dear, had a stroke." We spent the next two days in the neurological intensive care unit while they tried to figure out why a healthy, happy, active, non-smoking, healthy eating, lifelong athlete of 39 years had just had a stroke.
While doing those handstands that morning, I had torn my left carotid artery, one of the four main arteries that supply blood to the brain. The tear sent a blood clot to my brain causing a stroke and the trauma of the tear caused a small aneurysm to develop. This is the same kind of stroke that you hear about happening at the beauty salon or at the chiropractors. It is extremely rare, only happening to about two people in every 200,000, but it does happen.
I was sent home with a barrage of doctors appointments and more tests. I spent the first three months in bed and it took another three months before I started to feel vaguely anywhere like myself again. At my six month scan, I found out that my carotid artery had completely healed, which was, of course, incredible news. The aneurysm, however. was still there, and will most likely remain there for the rest of my life.
For a long time, I thought I would find self-love by gaining the acceptance of others. If I could get others to like me, then I would eventually be able to truly love myself. But as I got older, I realized that how others felt about me had absolutely nothing to do with my own self-worth. I had to truly accept and learn to love myself. So Idecided that I needed to change the way I thought about myself.
I wanted to become the very best version of myself. Have you ever heard of the saying "We are what we repeatedly do"? I started to "act" more like what I pictured this best version "me" to be. I was kinder to myself and to everyone that I would come across each day, no matter how casual the interaction. The journey to self-love is honestly one that I think I will be on for my entire life. Your relationship with yourself is just like any other one and is constantly evolving, changing and hopefully, improving.
I try to collaborate with as many like-minded individuals and organizations as possible to spread awareness to different issues and missions. Top on my list, are companies like FRÉ, which focus on positivity, self-care, love and empowerment. I also enjoy working with environmentally driven organizations, particularly those who are trying to clean our oceans and eradicate plastics out of our waters. I also enjoy working with numerous dog rescues and volunteer as much as possible.
I am so very grateful to be alive today. Being able to touch my toes is a gift for which I will not ever take for granted. I am incredibly lucky because not only did I survive something that is usually only seen in autopsies, but I have made almost a complete recovery and am absolutely thriving. My brush with death became a gift because now I know how fragile life truly is and how every breath should be cherished. I go to bed at night and the last thought I have is "thank you" and the first thing I think when I open my eyes each morning is "thank you." Every day is special.
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