By Bonny Kennedy, Lead Implementation Specialist

My Midlife Crisis 

In 2011, just a few months after my 47th birthday - I think I was in the middle of a midlife crisis - I decided to take up running.  

I hated it.   

But as time went on and I met others in the local running community, that hate turned into love. In a short amount of time, I was running my first 5k followed by my first 10k in April 2012. I joined a local running group and trained for the first of three half marathons that I would run that fall.  

I was 49 and in the best shape of my life, and I decided I would celebrate my 50th birthday with a full marathon - yes, 26.2 miles! I had 11 months to prepare and no doubts whatsoever about my ability to accomplish my goal.   

Trusting the Professionals 

In January 2013, I was feeling a bit sluggish and tired but chalked it up to all the miles I was putting in. It wasn't until I went for my annual checkup that I discovered my thyroid was out of whack (along with every other hormone in my body), and I was sent to a highly recommended hormone specialist, who assured me I would be feeling better in no time.  She increased my thyroid meds and added some other colorful pills and I trustingly obeyed her orders. I went about my life, continued my training and hoped for the best.   

The Bottom Falls Out

On a beautiful spring morning in 2013, I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my husband when I began to experience a feeling I will never forget... It took a few minutes to process what was happening, but I had seen all of the public service messages... it was a heart attack.   

Could it be? I'm a runner! I'm healthy! Right?  

Lying in the ER of the nearest hospital it was quickly discovered that my prescribing physician had made an error - it wasn't a heart attack after all but I was most definitely seriously ill.   

Every doctor I saw wanted to throw another pill at the problem and at that time, I would have done anything for a moment of relief. Thus began the darkest 12 months of my life.   

Taking Control 

I spent most of 2013 scared and confused. I was in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals, referred to specialists and subspecialists. Everyone had a different opinion and no one was talking to anyone else.  

I was seeing four doctors regularly. When I left one office, I would demand a copy of those lab results and notes and bring them to the next appointment.  

In my spare time, I read. I researched my diagnoses and found experts. I attended lectures. I joined online communities. I walked into every appointment, armed with knowledge and information.  

I knew what had to be done and was determined to find the right doctors who would treat the cause and quit treating the symptoms. I prayed a lot and relied on my faith that God would pull me through.   

That November, I quietly celebrated my 50th birthday with my family.  

I hadn't run in months.  

The Long Road Back

I knew I had to make some drastic changes. I was on the road to recovery and was finally being treated by the right doctors but now had the daunting task of tapering off the by one. My daughter’s wedding was in February, and I was determined to be free by then.  

Little by little, things began to look up. I was thinking more clearly. I was alive and feeling like myself again. In April, with my doctor’s blessing, I decided to lace up my running shoes.  

I couldn't run a mile.   

But I refused to give up, and before I knew it I was running a 5k again. A month after that, it was a 10k. In June, I decided I was feeling well enough to start training again and set my sights on a fall marathon. I got up at 6 a.m. every day, all summer, and I ran… six, then eight, then 10 miles... a half marathon... and this past weekend, I celebrated my 51st birthday crossing the finish line of the Savannah Marathon in five hours and 22 minutes. 

The Lessons  

This past year has taught me many things. It's taught me that I have to take control of my health care and become educated. 

It’s taught me that I have to learn to question providers when something doesn't sound right. 

It’s taught me that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. 

But most importantly, I’ve learned to never, ever give up!

Bonny Kennedy celebrated her 51st birthday by crossing the finish line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon in Savannah, Ga., on Nov. 8, 2014.