The War of My Life

When I was in high school I had an embarrassing obsession of the Backstreet Boys. Don’t get me wrong, I loved *NSYNC and 98° as well but Kevin Richardson was the one who made my heart beat faster. Then I got to college and became a little angsty so I started listening to Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service but my heart was truly with the singer song-writers. Enter “Love Song for No One” and my love for John Mayer was born. I played him over and over until my CD wore thin. I loved him so much that for our wedding present Marc got me tickets to see him on our honeymoon in London. Over the last few years he hasn’t been as prominent in my playlist but like a first love he will always have a piece of my heart. Please go ahead and listen to this song while you read the rest of this post:

I do not remember anything from my coma which is weird because I was awake the day after they put me under. I was intubated but I used my phone to communicate with those around me. I apologized to the nurses for arguing with them the night before (I laughed when I heard this because that is just SO ME to do!) My notes app on my phone contains notes saying, “Will we be able to have kids?” “I’m out of it” “I’m very thirsty” “Take the boys to the Easter Bunny.” I didn’t remember any of this and so I was quite amused reading through them when my family told me. Later that day I deteriorated so much that they determined they had to put me in prone position on my stomach in attempt to ameliorate the fluid in my lungs. It was their Hail Mary. I was on my stomach for 18 hours before the could flip me back over and from that point on I slept for three more days. While I slept they played music for me constantly. My poor mom thought she might lose her mind, if not from me being in a coma, then from the country music she was being forced to listen to. Sorry, Mom, but I love it!

When I woke up I had a tune in my head that I could not place. I could hear John Mayer singing but I could not find the song. It was from one of his albums that I was not as familiar with and so I googled and googled but I could not figure it out. Then it randomly came up on my phone and I listened to it on repeat. I googled the words. And then I cried for a long time. Here are the lyrics:

“War Of My Life”

Come out Angels
Come out Ghosts
Come out Darkness
Bring everyone you knowI’m not running
I’m not scared
I am waiting and well prepared

I’m in the war of my life
At the door of my life
Out of Time and there’s nowhere to run

I’ve got a hammer
And a heart of glass
I got to know right now
Which walls to smash

I got a pocket
Got no pill
If fear hasn’t killed me yet
Then nothing will

All the suffering
And all the pain
Never left a name

I’m in the war of my life
At the door of my life
Out of time and there’s nowhere to run

I’m in the war of my life
At the core of my life
I’ve got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done

No more suffering
No more pain
Never again

I’m in the war of my life
At the door of my life
Out of time and there’s nowhere to run

I’m in the war of my life
I’m at the core of my life
Got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done
So Fight on, fight on everyone, so fight on
Got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done

I’m in the war of my life
I’m at the core of my life
I’ve got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done

Although I cannot remember anything from my coma I know that I was listening. Because if I wasn’t, how would it be this song that I had to find when I woke up? When I first found it listened to it over and over the way I first listened to John Mayer and then I had to put it away. I could not listen to this song that reminded me of those awful days. But now I can listen to it again… because I didn’t have a choice but to fight and I did. I fought and I won.

Golf, Marc, and other Four Letter Words


Marc’s 2015 season ended after missing the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the 2nd playoff event. It was a disappointing end to a turbulent season…but the only emotion I feel is pride. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane.

The beginning of this year was met with questions of confidence. After two missed cuts in Tampa and Orlando the questions were “Will I ever play good golf again?” “What is wrong with my game?” “Am I going to be able to pay for the house we are building?” “Am I going to have a job next year?”

Fast forward to only two weeks later and the questions changed. “Will I lose my wife?” “Will my boys grow up without a mother?” “Will I ever play professional golf again?” His dreams changed from playing and hopefully contending in the Masters to the idea of me waking up even one more time so he could speak with me again.

In another two weeks the questions changed again. “How can I leave my family to play again when they need me right now?” “Will they be okay when I’m gone?” “What kind of golf can I play when half of my heart is at home?” He answered those questions with a fighting spirit and a T28 finish at the Zurich Classic and a T9 finish at the Cadillac Match Play.

Three months later the question was “Am I going to win the British Open?” On one hand you had most of Marc’s hometown, Warrnambool, staying up all night in support of him. On the other you had Alan Shipnuck’s questionable comment, “Marc Leishman is a nice fellow, and clearly a good player. But with this leaderboard it will be a monumental letdown if he wins this thing.” He answered that question with a second place finish, job security, great memories, and a little bit of disappointment.

And then less than two months later we lost Marc’s uncle, Ray, to a 32 year battle of several different cancers. He is the Ray in #ollieray and you could not have met a man with more strength, courage, positivity, and love in his heart. We know he is shining down on us but his loss has left this world with just a little less beauty. Two weeks after this loss Marc injured his back.

If I can be blunt, in our personal lives, 2015 has been a bitch of a year. I will be happy to bid this one farewell.

Even under the best of circumstances golf can be an absolutely brutal sport. The only guarantee you have is that you will have to put money into it. There is no promise that you will gain anything in return. You will have to pay for your flights, accommodation, and caddie regardless of whether you make the cut. Add in families to support and you can start to imagine the pressure. If you don’t know what the cut means here you go: tournaments run from Thursday-Sunday and after Friday only the top 70 and ties move on to the weekend. The rest go home without a paycheck. Imagine missing cut after cut after cut. Imagine what that will do to your confidence and your bank account. As the season progresses you watch your rank fall lower and lower and you worry about whether you will even have a job for the next year.  This is the less glamorous side of golf that most don’t understand. You know why they call it golf? Because all of the other four letter words are taken.

Golf is a game of inches. One inch forward on the green and your ball is in position for a birdie putt. One inch short and it rolls down the hill and stops at your feet. One inch to the right in the bunker and it sits on top of the sand. One inch to the left and it is buried. One inch to a birdie putt that could cost you a cut made or a tournament won. The cut that you just missed could cost you making it into the playoffs and therefore cost you your job for the next year. People often ask me if I want our boys to play competitive golf. The answer is that I will support them whether they want to be a golfer, surgeon, or writer. The answer is also that this is not a lifestyle I would wish for them. It is one that can come with amazing rewards, more rewards than you could ever dream of. It can also come with more disappointment than you could ever imagine. Talk to any golfer about those that make it and those that don’t. It is not about talent. They are all talented. With the exception of those few extraordinary players the difference between the talent in the rest could be measured in inches.

So when I look back at Marc’s year all I can say is that I am so, very proud of him. Much prouder than he is of himself but, then again, his humility is one of the things I love most about him.




The Reason

Many people have told me that I am brave. I will let you in on a little secret; I have not felt brave. I have simply felt called upon to share my story. However, writing this specific post is taking all the courage I possess.

I would be lying if I said I have never questioned why I got sick. These have not been questions full of self-pity, but rather a desire to find my purpose in all of this. I have thought that maybe this happened because I was strong enough to handle it. Maybe it is because it would not devastate us financially they way it could have another family. I think a big reason is because Marc and I are in a position to spread awareness. One of my dearest friends, Mel, sent me this quote the other night and it really resonated within me.


I think that in one way this illness has been a gift to me. I have never been the most confident person but there is no good reason for all of my self-doubt. I grew up in a great family with parents that told me they loved me and often. I have always known that I am a kind person but I never felt that was quite enough. College was the most difficult time of my life thus far, including the past few months. I left my very sheltered life and learning independence was initially a big struggle. In the begining I became friends with people who maybe were not the best fit. I was young and made some big (at the time) mistakes. I apologized for them but they were also young and did not give me grace. Because they would not forgive me, I could not forgive myself. I lived the last two years of college anxious of the next drunken outburst or terrible voicemail, luckily there were only three of four instances that occurred but in a school of only about 6000 people I always knew it was a possibility. All of this led to much self loathing, specifically of my body. I began to purge, clinging to the endorphins that rushed through my body every time I hung my head over that toilet. I punished myself everyday for the things I could not control. I sought counseling but it did not really help. Even now, 10 years later, when I think of this time in my life I get a horrible knot in my chest. Graduating was liberating and I have never had any desire to go back for homecoming because there is not much about that place that feels like home.

When I came back to Virginia Beach things improved exponentially. I found a good job, I worked hard and I bought a townhouse at 22 years old. These are things I am proud of and I found happiness in new friendships and strengthening of old ones. Despite this happiness I never could find an acceptance of my body. I stopped the purging almost as soon as I graduated but I could not move past the body shaming. I have lived for the past ten years always trying to lose weight, sometimes succeeding, only to gain it back. Finding a man who loves me just as I am did not heal this and just proves that you must love yourself. I have tried cleanses, pills, drinks, wraps, and lotions but I still always found myself in front of the mirror tearing my reflection apart. I compared myself to every other woman, never thinking poorly about the women larger than me, but always feeling like I should work harder to be like the ones who were thinner. One day Harvey looked at me and said “Mommy, I’m fat.” I sat there stunned and ashamed. For once it was not shame about my body but shame of what I was teaching my son at such a young age. I decided it was time to change and I started looking for positive role models. I found The Body Image Movement started by Taryn Brumfitt and took their online Unstoppable Program I discovered Jade Beall photography, her  A Beautiful Body Project and ordered her book, The Bodies of Mothers. I have listened to Meghan Trainer’s “All About that Bass,” Colbie Calliat’s “Try,”  and John Legend’s “You and I” and “All of Me” more times than I care to admit. I started to speak the right words, but just like a smile sometimes does not reach the eyes, the words never touched my heart. I was kind to everyone around me but I could not extend myself the same courtesy.

Then the worst happened…and you know what? This body of mine did not fail me. After years of listening to me tell it that it was not good enough it proved that it was. I survived when the odds were most certainly not in my favor. I woke up and I was finally thin!!! I was 13lbs lighter, finally my pre-pregnancy weight! A month prior and I would have told you that I would have given anything to lose that much weight. I just never imagined that the cost could have been my life. For the first time I saw a flat stomach and arms that did not jiggle and I did not care one bit. I would have gained it all back over night if it could have taken away the hell I had just been through. I’m lucky I felt that way because I have gained it and crazy enough, I’m really okay with that. I used to say things like “Oh if only I just didn’t love food so much,” then my medications took away my taste for food. The hospital nutritionist came to me because I was only eating 20% of my meals and they started making me drink Ensure. I learned that I don’t want to live a life where I cannot enjoy food. I am thankful everyday that my taste buds came back to life and for the first time in fifteen years I do not feel guilty when I eat a piece of chocolate. I do not associate food with labels like “good” and “bad.” I finally understand that you can have fat and not be fat. Ironically, now that I am finally at peace with food I find myself making the best choices I ever have. I want to eat healthy foods to feel well instead of look good. Now that I don’t see any food as forbidden I can leave those Oreos sitting right where they are. They’ll be there when I want them and I do not feel the compulsion to eat them in one guilty binge. What an amazing transformation.

This body that I have hated for so many years loved me so much that it fought fiercely to survive. I am now in wonderous awe of what it can do. These lungs that filled with so much fluid that my x-ray was completely white are now breathing every second of every day without any assistance. These eyes can look at my children, these lips can kiss them, and these arms that have one busted vein and picc line scar can hold them. This scar on my chin gets kissed by my children who refer to it as “mommy’s boo boo.” These legs are weaker than before but for once I could not give one damn that my thighs touch. If I get excited and clap and my arms jiggle a little, that’s okay, because I am happy and celebrating life. I used to think that running was some sort of punishment for weighing too much. Now I am anxiously waiting for the day that I can do so again. And I will run. I will chase my kids in the backyard. I will come out pink and blue and purple from color runs or covered in mud from Dirty Dashes. I will run because this spectacular body of mine will be able to. Right now I am focusing on exercises that will fulfill me spiritually and heal me physically. And this belly of mine, oh this belly. It has always been the thing I hated the most. I used to grab it and pinch it, and talk about getting it sucked out. Nowadays, I thank it. It carried my two most precious gifts. It is marked with a few stripes of pregnancy and I have a bit of a cliff that hangs over my c-section scar but it expands and retracts with my breath. It grows with an amazing meal that I no longer berate myself for eating. And one day, when I am feeling better, I hope it will grow with another child. I will not care if I become more marked than I am now because I ache for the feeling of another life kicking and punching me from within. Any new marks will just be evidence of my blessings and joy.

It took me almost dying to finally love myself fully. This is the silver lining that I cling to when the days are rough. This was my gift.





The Symptoms

I understand that there are many, many women who will not change their use of tampons for convenience, comfort, or their conviction that they will not be the unlucky one to get sick. That’s okay. I send them nothing but love, the prayer that they are correct, and the knowledge of what to look for.

A quick recap. I got my IUD out on a Tuesday, got my period that Thursday and resumed my use of Tampons. That week I worked out 4 times, even trying a new boxing class that Saturday I took the boys to get Easter pictures done with DHM photography.

DHM_1071 IMG_0539

Are they not the cutest? Sunday morning I took the boys to see the movie, Home, with my dad. I want to stress to you that I felt 100% fine. That night we had dinner plans with family friends and on the way there I started feeling a bit achy. I brushed it off. When we got to their house I was so cold to the point where they gave me a sweater. I could barely touch my food. On the way home the shakes and aches worsened. When we arrived I put the boys to bed and went straight to sleep myself. In the matter of a few hours I deteriorated from feeling great to flat in bed.

The next day I could not get out of bed. Marc and his dad were here and they took care of the boys so I could rest. I tried to eat some chicken noodle soup and I only got half way through it. I kept going from hot to cold and I was weak. I never thought to take my temperature. I had diarrhea every time I went to the toilet, not the painful kind, almost like water. (I apologize for the TMI but I want to be completely transparent with you.) My right elbow and left toe were aching. I thought I had the stomach flu and that maybe I was going a little crazy but something was nagging at the back of my mind.

My best friend, Angela, works for Social Security Disability. I actually worked there first and I knew she would be a good fit for the job and convinced her to apply. I resigned one month before Marc and I wed and she has stayed on a climbed the ranks there. A disability analyst reads medical records and works in conjunction with staff doctors to make the allowance/denial decisions on disability claims. Analysts are not doctors but as the saying goes, they play them on tv. I texted Angela and asked her if she had ever had a case of TSS. I told her I had slept with my tampon in and I was nervous. She had not had a case. I convinced myself it was the stomach flu.

I knew that Marc was leaving early Tuesday morning for a practice round at Augusta and that I would be on my own with the boys. I called my parents and asked if my dad could come in the morning to help me get the boys to school. Ollie woke up first at about 7am. I picked him up and thought it was a serious possibility I could drop him. I had to hold him on my left side because my right elbow was now hurting so badly I could hardly extend my arm. I walked with a limp due to the pain in my toe. When we got downstairs I finally took my temperature, it was 102. My dad was my savior that morning when he got there. He took charge of the boys and as soon as they were in school I was back in bed. I was still getting up about every 30 minutes to an hour to use the bathroom. The pain kept increasing my joints. I can’t remember why I had to go downstairs but when I went back up the stairs I was short of breath and then my nose started bleeding. This was when I finally started to take things seriously. I called my parents and asked them if they could keep the boys that night. They told me to go to the doctor but I refused. I was just so tired and wanted to lay down. The thought of sitting in a doctor’s office waiting made me want to cry.

Throughout the day I continued to text Angela with my symptoms. She wanted me to go to the doctor; she thought I had pneumonia. I couldn’t have guessed that she was right. I refused again. I was being a stubborn little shit that day…but by 6pm she was not taking no for an answer. She sent me a message saying that if I was not feeling better in three hours that she would be picking me up. I knew I would not be feeling better and so I finally relented. We went to Patient First because it was the closest and they very rarely had long waits. They told me they didn’t take my insurance and sent me away. It was 6:30pm by this point and I knew the Sentara Urgent Care closed at 7 so we had just enough time to get there. Angela suggested the ER, but again, I refused. I did not want to think I was sick enough to go there.

When I was finally seen, I limped my way to the room and they took my vitals. My temp was still 102, my heart rate was in the 140’s at rest, and my blood pressure was somewhere around 90/60. The nurse stepped back, put on a mask, and told me I was very sick. The doctor came in and I cannot state how very thankful I am that I got Dr. Pierce. She was kind and gentle with me which was the only thing I could have handled at the point. I know that nowadays doctors are not known for amazing bedside manners but she was the queen of them. She ordered a strep test, flu screen, urine and stool samples and a chest x-ray. They hooked me up IV fluids and penicillin. Dr Pierce told me she was going to do everything she could for me there but she would not promise that I would not end up in the emergency room. If she did release me to go home I was not allowed to be alone. I could not take anything to help me sleep. If I worsened I was to go straight to the ER. If I had not felt so awful I might have been terrified.

After several hours there she told me that I was positive for strep throat and a UTI. My stats had not improved at all. I needed to go to the emergency room and she wanted me to go via ambulance. She stressed to me that this was serious. I needed to do this for my family. She thought I was going into septic shock. Even as I was being strapped onto a gurney and transported to the ER I cannot say I was scared. I was just tired and knew that my night was not going to end anytime soon.

I will end this post with one last thought: sometimes you have to fight for your health. The ER was very busy that night, so busy that even though I was brought in by ambulance I still had to wait. When I was seen by the triage nurse he took my vitals, looked me in the eye and said, “So you have a fever, high heart rate, and low blood pressure. I don’t understand why you are here. Your doctor is retarded and I just hate when people can’t do their jobs.”

If I had not been feeling so awful I would have laid into that horrible, horrible man for his use of the r-word. It is the ugliest word and I am quick to correct people when they try to use that word as an insult. I have worked with that population and if anything, it is a compliment. If I had listened to him and gone home I would not be telling you this story right now. Listen to your body, listen to your instincts, and ignore the idiots.

Possible signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include:

  • A sudden high fever
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
  • Confusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

My diagnoses upon discharge were:





Reactive Arthritis


I have to be acutely aware of these symptoms and listen to my body as there is between a 5-40% chance of recurrence of TSS.




*** Thank you for all the shares and comments! A few people have asked about alternatives and I actually wrote a post on that here.

The Miracles

“When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave Your hands” ~JJ Heller

If you’d like a little music, please listen to the song above as you read this post. It has provided me much comfort throughout this journey.

Have you ever been in a hotel where the blinds are on a chain and they are very stiff and frankly kind of pain in the ass to pull up and down? Those were the blinds in the hospital and for that reason they pretty much stayed in the same position the entire time I was there, about half up. There were many risks taking me off intubation and a team of doctors were there for all of the “just in cases.” When It was done  they all left except for Marc and Dr Inayet. It was a sigh of relief. I had pulled through and they finally knew I was going to be okay. As they were sitting there those tough, annoying blinds slammed shut. Dr Inayet looked at Marc and said, “Well, that was her guardian angel leaving.” I haven’t met too many doctors that don’t take all the credit for what they do, and I certainly haven’t met any doctors that talk about guardian angels.

The day after I was discharged I was in so much pain from the not yet diagnosed pleurisy. The only thing that eased it was laying in a certain position almost on my side with heat applied to my ribs. I had one of those microwavable bean socks that my friends kept warming up for me but every time it cooled the pain spiked. My friend Kelly suggested to Marc’s mom, Polly, that a plug-in heating pad might be better. She was going to the grocery store and asked if she could get one there. We told her she would probably have to go to a pharmacy. While at the store Polly decided to just have a wander through the pharmacy aisles. As she was walking a box literally fell at her feet. It was an electric heating pad. My guardian angel had left the hospital and decided to make a stop in Harris Teeter on her way home.

Harvey is a typical little boy and is quite obsessed with monster trucks. His favorite is the Grave Digger.  IMG_9325 IMG_9500

When we were in Australia last year he broke his Grave Digger truck and when we got back to the US he forgot about it. He only has about 50 other trucks to play with. Well, two weeks after I got out of the hospital he decided he had to have his Grave Digger. We had a little one but it had to be the big one. He cried for three hours wanting this truck and nothing we did consoled him. It was frustrating, devastating, exhausting. I was equal parts wanting to drop him off to the nearest homeless person and make him feel better. He finally calmed down enough to take his nap. While he was asleep my friend, Kristina, arrived from Charlottesville with a bag full of goodies. At the very top of that bag was a brand spanking new Grave Digger monster truck. I’m telling you, that Lord of ours, He knows what is in our hearts. He knows what we need and while we may not always understand; He always loves us and is always with us.

For a few months the messages quieted. I didn’t feel alone exactly, but I wasn’t turning to Him quite as much as I should have. I had found a therapist, Elaine, that I loved but she only works two days a week for a few hours. I wasn’t very good at making my appointments in advance and was having trouble getting in with her. I thought I should find someone new but felt almost paralyzed every time I tried to search for a new one. On one of my more desperate days I called the Priest who had married Marc and I, the man who was there at both the baptisms of our two boys, and who came and anointed me while I was in the hospital, Father Jim Parke. I told him I needed to talk with someone and he was at my house the very next day. His counseling was amazing and in our conversation I mentioned therapy. He told me that a therapist had worked with a few of his former parishioners. Her name was Elaine. I knew right then that it was the same Elaine but I asked a few questions to be certain and sure enough, she was the same person. My eyes filled with tears and my heart nearly exploded with love and gratitude. He was speaking to me again. I did not need to find a new therapist I just needed to get off my ass and make an appointment with her. I called and could not get in with her for two weeks. I asked to be put on her cancellation list and the very next day I got a call that I was in the next week. Blessings!




The Media

I haven’t gotten angry much during this whole process. There have been a lot of tears, fears, and questioning but really very little anger. I was taken aback when one line in one article made me see red, “While Audrey is shying away from the media…” I’m not really sure why that did it but my blood pressure raised and I had to walk away. I could not finish reading that article.

Let me tell you a story. At about 5am Thursday, April 3rd I made two phone calls to my parents and brothers to tell them that I was about to be intubated and placed in a coma and that I loved them. This conversation happened after much arguing and bargaining with the doctors. I wanted more time. I wanted to wait until about 7am when I could speak to my babies and tell them I loved them. We were told in no uncertain terms that if they did not do it right then I would die. Marc made the most difficult decision to override my wishes and tell the doctors to do it. Those two phone calls are the last things I remember from before they put me under. I am blessed that I do not remember having to say goodbye to Marc; although, I did get a very good laugh when he told me that I begged him to take care of the cats even though he doesn’t really like them and to make sure he took the boys to the Easter bunny. I was me right until they put me under.

When I woke up I was surrounded by my family and some of my closest friends. I was just so happy to see them that I did not really question why there were not more visitors. I was under quarantine and everyone had to suit up before they could see me. I thought maybe that was the reason. My wonderful, amazing family were protecting me from the truth for as long as they could which was that our local media had tried to get into the ICU to take pictures of me. Other media were calling and trying to get information. At the very worst moment of my family’s life they were trying to get a story and make a buck. I will never even come close to forgiving them for that. Due to their complete disrespect Marc had to come up with a list of a maximum of 10 people who would be allowed to see me. Anyone who called for any reason would have to give a password.

I try not to think about this because when I do many, many emotions surface that I do not know how to comprehend. Yes, I chose to marry a professional golfer. I knew the media would be part of our lives. I just never imagined that I would be the subject of their stories. I have never wanted the attention and would have been happy to stay on the outside of the ropes, supporting my husband quietly. I do not blame the media for wanting information. I understand they have jobs to do. I do blame those particular people for being absolutely disgraceful in their attempt to get it in those early few days.

This is the photo they were trying so hard to get:


I think that maybe it is just a little understandable why my family would not have wanted that in the papers when they were unsure whether I was even going to survive. Maybe that’s just me though. Like I said, I’m a little angry.

I’ll get back to the comment about me shying away from the media. It was a harmless comment and it is the truth. What I don’t understand is why it needed to be written at all. Marc and I have had a great relationship with the media. When I had been out of the hospital for about a week I gave my first interview to our friend Ben Everall, one week later I spoke with Tim Rosenforte, and a week after that I spoke with Helen Ross…while I had pink eye no less. They were all lovely and respectful and I did not hesitate to speak with them. Marc has spoken to literally anyone who has asked him to. He has done so with appreciation, gratitude, and sportsmanship. I have had to hear countless times how I suffered a near fatal illness. The 5% stat comes out nearly every time a commentator speaks about Marc. It would be difficult for me to move on with those words in my ears.

The Monday of the British Open I was not feeling well; it was one of those days that I could not drag myself out of bed. The doorbell rang and I was able to peak around our staircase to see if it was someone I knew. I saw a young-ish man in khakis and a button up with his face pressed up against our window looking in. He did not see me see him. He returned later that afternoon when I was feeling better and asked me to contact him regarding an interview. The number sits in my phone and I sincerely doubt that I will ever dial it.

One of the reasons I started this blog is that it is a very weird feeling for everyone to “know” your story but not actually know it. I would have been very happy if no one ever heard about it all but because they have I think it’s better to hear it straight from me.




The Aftermath

Some days are good. Some days it feels like four generations of birds have built a mansion on top of my head. The weight can feel unbearable.

I woke up from my induced coma on April 7th. They had reduced my sedation the prior Saturday but I must have been making up for all the sleepless nights my kids put me through. I was extubated on Monday and apparently started waking up but I do not remember anything prior to that Tuesday. I remember Marc coming close to give me a kiss and when he backed away I told him he had four eyes. When my brothers came to visit me I was absolutely convinced that they had died their black hair blue. I saw little floaters in the air that I stated “looked like tiny, flying penises.” Weird things happen when you wake up from a coma. I had no idea that I had been asleep for four days. When I read other accounts of TSS and ARDS I feel blessed that it was only four. Many people are in comas for weeks if not months.

I spent a bit of time alone in the hospital once I was awake. Everyone was balancing the kids, working, and catching up on some sleep now that they knew I would be okay. I had cards and care packages to look through but my lifeline back to the world was my phone. It was very frustrating that it was now too heavy for me to lift. My thumbs felt like they were three times their size but I fumbled my way through taking off my phone case. I hoped that would make it easier to lift. It didn’t.

I started physical therapy in the hospital. Brittany, my PT, was absolutely amazing. She was one of the many angels that God sent to me. The first time I walked again was scary. How was it that at 31 years old I had to learn to walk again?


I sent that picture to my parents saying “look what I can do!” Can you imagine what it was like for them having to watch their daughter learn how to walk for the second time?

I asked my doctor to put in an order for me to shower. I had to sit in a chair and was assisted with the entire thing. It was the first time I looked at my body, which was 13 lbs lighter and frail. I studied the scrapes on my cheeks and chin. It was my body but I no longer knew it. I cried for a long time.

I was discharged Friday, April 10th. I was sent home with a picc line in my arm, a walker, and a bedside commode. I was so excited to see my boys. They punished me for not being there. They ignored me and my heart shattered into a million pieces. That first night I was in so much pain that I got my walker and shuffled onto the couch. I watched infomercials until I finally fell asleep at about 4am. At 5am I had to wake up for my IV antibiotics.

Sunday, April 12th I ended up back in the ER. The pain in my ribs was making it too hard to breathe. My doctor was afraid of a pulmonary embolism. I hooked up my antibiotic and off we went. Marc and I watched the Masters in our little room. I still had fluid in my lungs and often needed to cough but whenever I did the pain would sear through me. I tried my best not to cough. Luckily the CT scan showed no PE. It was ruled pleurisy and I was given some Percocet. I know that Jesus loves me because he gave the scientists the knowledge to create Percocet.

Once I was able to control my pain I improved quickly. Everyday I was able to do something new. After three days I no longer needed the walker. My wonderful in home PT, Danielle, taught me how to walk again properly. “Bigger steps Audrey. A little faster now. I am right here and will not let you fall.” She gave me the confidence I had lost. After two weeks I was able to get up and down the stairs without assistance. I was amazed. My doctor was amazed. I thought to myself, “I kicked this thing in the butt.”

I was shocked when three months later I realized I had definitely not kicked anything anywhere. I have days when I am so tired it takes everything I have to just get out of bed. Moments when my legs feel so weak I am afraid they might give out. For about two months my hair fell out at an alarming rate. I have maybe half the thickness I used to. My eyelids always feel heavy. Most of the time I feel like I am walking around in a bit of a fog. If I am having a good day and I try to do too much I pay for it with a crushing fatigue that lays me flat. What is wrong with me? Am I trying to get attention? Have I developed some psychological need for it? Am I just being a big baby? These are the things I feel sometimes even though my doctor assures me this is normal. Other survivors say the same thing. And yet, it does not make it one bit easier to deal with.

I have two little boys that I cannot even chase around my living room without feeling exhausted and breathless. My workouts used to consist of running one mile, 30 minutes of HIIT training, and finishing with a one mile run. Now I have more days than not where I have to say I am just too tired to even go to the gym.

Let me take a moment to mention how amazing my doctor is. His name is Dr. Nadeem Inayet. He is one of those angels that was sent to me and is only dressed as man doing God’s work. After saving my life and one follow-up visit he could have been done with me. Instead he came and watched me work out last Monday so we can figure out what the best kind of exercise for me to do. He is helping me figure out what supplements will be the best to help me recover. He keeps me sane by reminding me that it will get better. It will just take time. He is a genius so I believe him. Dr Inayet and Marc developed a bond when I was sick and left as brothers for life. I am really lucky because then I am him sister-in-law by default!

I am in talk therapy to try to work through the emotions that sometimes feel too big for my body. I have an unlimited supply of guilt. I am not the mother or wife I used to be and most days I feel fairly useless. Marc tells me, “but you are here.” I know that is the truth and I do love him so for saying that to me…but sometimes it does not feel enough to just be here. I want to do the things I used to do and be the person I used to be. This is a test in patience and I am afraid I am failing; but, everyday I put one foot in front of the other and breathe in and breathe out. I do not forget how close I was to not being able to do those things.

If you are interested in learning more here is a link that describes life after TSS and here is a link for post ARDS.

There are many well-meaning people who say to me, “I’m glad you are feeling better.” Although I appreciate the sentiment ad support I do have to say one thing: Better is a relative term. Yes, I am better than I was in April but I am still oceans away from who I used to be.




The Alternative

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Prevention is a wonderfully frustrating thing. If a person does not use a tampon and they don’t get sick that is wonderful. It is frustrating that there is no way to prove that they would have gotten sick if they had used one. After yesterday’s post someone wrote that I was trying to cause mass hysteria. I understand how if you don’t know me or my story that the title of this blog may lend to that misconception. I assure you though that I do not want to make anyone panic. All I want to do is present another option, another opinion, and maybe, just maybe prevent someone else from going through what I went through. You want to know what causes panic? Not being able to breathe. When my lungs filled with fluid and I succumbed to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) I was panicked. Want to know what causes hysteria? Being told that you have to be sedated and intubated. Fearing that you will never wake up. You will never kiss your kids again. You will leave your husband alone to raise them. You will never get the chance to tell everyone important in your life how much you love them. That is panic and hysteria. That is feeling like the whole world is collapsing around you but know that it’s not. It is just your body shutting down organ by organ while the world still turns.

The next thing I read from two people is that I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the IUD removal as the cause. Fair enough. I wrote that I will never truly know which it was that made me sick. I consulted doctor google again and found stories of TSS from IUD implantation. I did not find any documented stories about it occurring from removal. I did hear of a story of a friend of a friend of a friend that did get sick from removal. All I’m saying is that according to my doctors it is not documented in medical literature yet. I am not saying that if you continue to use tampons that you will get sick. I am only asking if you want to risk the possibility. Smokers understand that when they light up they may get sick. If they choose to continue to smoke, that’s on them. I am not judging them. unfortunately many women do not understand that there is a true risk of TSS when you use tampons. That is documented and that is why there are warning labels that are just thrown away. If you do continue to use tampons I will pray, and pray, and pray some more that you will never get TSS. This is not about me being right. This is about information. And this is about me healing emotionally from the trauma I went through.

Now that I have that off my chest I’ll get back to the title of this post, the alternative. I am purposely using the singular here. I know there are many things you can choose to use but I think the most comfortable and environmentally friendly is the menstrual cup. One evening after I was discharged Marc sat me down and asked me what I was going to use in the future for my periods. You can mark that as one of the top conversations I never imagined having with my husband. I told him I did not know but that it would not be tampons. Several of my friends were cup users so I asked them their opinions and it was a 100% consensus that they loved them. When that first period came I broke out my newly ordered diva cup. It was so awkward. Like, seriously, I fold it and squat and do what with what?! You’ve got to be kidding me, right?! Then I figured it out and it was the most amazing thing ever. It was so comfortable that I literally could not feel it. I could leave it in for 12 hours?! Incredible! The removal? Awkward as hell…but you know what, that’s okay. When you’ve shit in a bed pan you can handle a little awkward. So there it is, my recommendation for an alternative to tampons. I found it to be more comfortable than a tampon ever had been. You will save money in the long run and it’s a hell of a lot better for Mother Earth. There are several brands you can use. I’m not endorsing the diva cup, that’s just the one I tried.

On a different note, I later found out that I am not allowed to use anything internal including cups. TSS changes your life forever.




The Cause

Marc and I married April 24, 2010. We knew we did not want to wait a long time to start a family and in one year we decided it was time. We tried exactly one month before I found out I was pregnant with Harvey. He was the sweetest and easiest baby. I took to motherhood the way I took to chocolate. I just loved it so much and wanted more. Harvey was only 8 months old when we started trying for Ollie. Two months later we were blessed again. Fast forward 10 months later and I was a sleep deprived maniac juggling a 19 month old and a newborn with my husband away. I knew we would wait much longer before we tried for a third. In my head I thought around Ollie’s second birthday. I didn’t last that long. As my two loves grew bigger I found myself aching for a newborn again…one that I could hopefully dress in pink. At 18 months I decided it was time to get my Mirena IUD removed. I made my appointment and on Tuesday, March 26th I showed up and left the office fifteen minutes later. The whole thing happened without incidence. Two days later I got my first real period since I had Ollie. I went to the store and bought some tampax pearl, the brand that was my favorite from the time I discovered it in my early 20’s. Friday night I slept in it. Saturday morning my usual little alarm clocks woke me up around 7 and I removed it. It was in for a maximum of 8 hours. Sunday night I started to feel shaky and achy. I was so, very cold but Marc told me I was burning up. I didn’t think to take my temperature. I figured I was coming down with the flu.

Did you ever watch the show House? I was a huge fan. I loved all the complexities of the cases, House’s sarcasm, and eventually watching him save the day. I really got a kick out of it. Then I became a House patient. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. They asked me when my last menstrual cycle was. I told them. I asked the doctor at urgent care about Toxic Shock. It was dismissed. No one asked me if I had any medical procedures done and I never thought to mention the IUD. My friend, Kelly, moved wind and water to make sure that message got to my nurses and doctors. When they found out about the IUD removal a light bulb went off, Toxic Shock Syndrome! Bing, bing, bing! You’ve won the prize. They started treating me and it worked.

When I woke up one of the doctors from my obgyn practice came and visited me. She was actually the doctor that put in my IUD 18 months prior. She was defensive. I told her I didn’t blame them. She said the test for Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever had not come back and that my symptoms fit that. She said that there is no documented literature of any issues with IUD removal. I told her that I had slept in my tampon. I asked her if she thought it could be TSS. She said no. She told me horror stories of women leaving in tampons and forgetting about them for months, having sex with them in, putting one in on top of the other. She had never had a case of it. She said I did not have a the tell-tale rash that often accompanies TSS. I wasn’t shedding my skin. It couldn’t be TSS.

I was the star of my very own House episode except it didn’t feel like it was going to end. Every other doctor was telling me TSS from IUD removal. My obgyn practice was adamantly denying that was possible from removal OR tampon. I am a trusting patient. I wanted to believe her but the treatment for TSS saved my life. Upon discharge the infectious disease doctor flat-out told me that he did not care what they said. They wanted to avoid a lawsuit (something I never considered.) Every symptom I had fit TSS, that’s what they treated me for and they saved my life. Okay, I believed them.

Shortly after I was discharged a story came out about a model that is suing a tampon company after losing her leg. I read her story and then I consulted doctor google and found so many more stories.  I have also found stories of men and children getting TSS from other reasons so I am not saying it is the only.  All I am saying is that when I think of my own story I believe it was from sleeping with a tampon in and not the IUD removal. The truth is I will never truly know because there was only a two-day difference between the removal and my tampon use. I do however know that there is a warning label on every tampon box for a reason. I do know that it is rare. I also know it is not as rare as you think. I do know that you put your life at risk every time you get in a car, fly on a plane, or in this crazy world even go to work. I also know that you don’t often have much of a choice but to do those things. You do, however, have a choice of whether to use a tampon. There are pads. There are menstrual cups. There is a new underwear made for it. There is even a woman who ran a marathon on her period without wearing one. Sleep in a diaper if you have to. You have choices and a tampon does not have to be one of them.




PS. Don’t use tampons

The other day I wrote a facebook status that I didn’t think too much about. I wrote it quickly and posted before I even proof read it. This was it:

Today my doctor compared toxic shock syndrome to flesh eating bacteria and told me that if you took a biopsy of my muscles it would look like someone took a hammer to them. Well, this explains a whole heck of a lot about why I’ve still been feeling so poorly 😁

PS Don’t use tampons

My dear friend, Christine, commented that I should start a blog. I dismissed it. Then I had dinner with her and she mentioned it again. Specifically she said, “If God puts it on your heart to start this blog, you really should. You might help someone by doing so.” I replied, “Sometimes I want to share my heart and sometimes I want to protect it.”

God has played a big role in my sickness and recovery. He has sent me many, many messages, though most were not so literal. Last night He was speaking to me again and I’m choosing to listen. I’m going to share my heart with you. It won’t be all at once but I won’t hold back.