Mary Wong has been a member at Art of Cycling since our inception late 2013. Earlier this year it came as a great shock to hear that Mary had suffered a serious stroke. We were so fortunate to not only help Mary get back to her fitness but to also be a part of her remarkable and inspiring comeback. Thanks again Mary for sharing your amazing story.
My life after a stroke.
By Mary Wong
I remember my first class at Art Of Cycling (AoC) back in January 2014 and from than I was hooked and it changed my cycling life and the way I felt about the bike.
The more I started going to AoC, I saw an increase in my fitness and endurance and doing an average of 3 – 5 classes / week and enjoyed the support of the instructors and members and the different classes that were on offer and challenged me.
Being with likeminded cycling enthusiast, was the catalyst to buying my first pair of bike shoes with cleats (I didn’t even know they existed) and my first road bike. The bike shoes added a different dimension and power to my riding and the guidance and support I got from the instructors and members helped me make my decision about which road bike to buy. I was now combining my rides at AoC and my road rides over the weekends.
Cycling had become part of my life, if I didn’t do a ride at AoC, I would be out on the road bike gaining confidence and riding with others on the road.
Running was already part of my life, another sport I loved and did regularly and I recently taught myself how to swim and with the help of my coach and partner, I was able to swim 1 km comfortably.
The normal progression from this was to try a triathlon. I got myself a coach and with his support and guidance, I joined the local triathlon club and started my triathlon journey – I loved every moment, I felt fit and invincible.
I love challenges and pushing myself to the limit is something I have always done and I have always respected others who strive to work hard in their training to achieve the best results.
Suddenly in January 2016, I woke up during the night with my head spinning and vomiting violently – I knew that something was wrong (being a nurse). When we called the ambulance, they thought it was just a middle ear infection and the neurologist thought the same as well until 48 hours later following an MRI – they realised I had had a cerebellar stroke.
I tried getting out of beds 2 days later and nearly fell as my legs could not hold me up and my balance was non-existence. The stroke had affected the lower half of my body and coordination. The Neurologist said I had to retrain my brain how to walk, balance and coordinate my legs- how was I going to do this and what about my training? I was previously so fit and healthy.
I was always known for my determination and tenacity by my friends and family, so once I had physio and a wheelie frame, I was off doing my laps around the ward. I started to get my legs to walk again- slow and unsteady and one step after another, but the more I did, the better I got.
I was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital and that was when the real work began. I had physio, Occupational Therapy and Hydrotherapy daily and when I did not have any treatment I was on the wheelie frame, which later migrated to a walking stick.
Tears, frustration, constant headaches and nausea were very common but I was determined to walk again and I practiced at every opportunity I got. I still remember when the physio said let’s try the steps and I looked at them and thought – no way! Initially the physio had to physically move my legs from one step to the other. After much practice, my stair climbing did improve but even now 8 months later, I still need to focus on my stairs and walking as I lose my balance occasionally.
I finally left rehabilitation after 4 weeks of intense physio training and attended as an outpatient.
I started thinking of work 3 months post stroke and went back on a RTW (return to work) program but failed miserably. My focus and concentration was not there. I was so overwhelmed and expected to just take off when I left prior to my stroke 3 months ago. I was in shock, self-doubt and negativity started to settle in. Could I train again, exercise and be a mum again?
As days went by, I sunk into despair and depression and started seeing a psychologist. We have a choice in these low moments and it’s whether to feed the self-doubt and negativity or believe things will improve and be positive. Everyone experiences moments in their lives when things get tough and when you want to quit, when you don’t want to get out of bed, when things fail and go wrong. As a stroke survivor, I experienced all this and as I have been given a second chance to live, I didn’t want to quit and I know how long and hard it took me to get here with the support of my family and friends. If I could make it to AoC on these tough days, I was getting stronger and ahead and I was I was always looking at getting ahead!!
I decided I needed to get some of my old life back and started to run – I can now run up to 5 km steadily but slowly. But I also to needed to get back on the bike.
I rang Sam at AoC and he was so helpful and welcoming. We met and he had written a low power zone card for me to start off with so I could gain confidence and get the legs spinning around.
My first class at AoC was exciting yet I was filed with anxiety and whether I could make it. As soon as I saw the instructors and members – their support gave me the strength to get through my first class.
I started with half an hour twice a week to build up and within 2 months my power zone card had increased to a medium intensity. Coming to AoC regularly 3- 4 times a week, seeing the instructors and members kept me smiling and feeling positive – there were so many people behind me. I kept coming back and was so happy to be back on the bike.
Some days I still have my self-doubts and feel negative but after a class, I always felt better and fitter. I was hooked again!
I still have a long journey ahead of me as a stroke survivor and many more challenges ahead but I know that cycling and AoC will be part of that journey. AoC has really pulled me through some tough times and being given a second chance to live, I will always strive to be the best I can be. I still attend physio and he has been working me so hard to get my balance good again. He has been a remarkable support for me.
I suppose it’s true what they say
‘ When you fall off the bike, you get back on again’
I may not have the highest zone card or be the fastest but I am back at AoC and on the bike! The instructors especially Sam and the members have been incredible and I thank them all for their support. They have made the tough days easier, when I did not have the inner strength to do it on my own.
Thank You AoC for getting me back on the bike.