Barbara’s Brave New Life

Community // Naomi Jaul // 5 September 2013


Barbara was a happy, healthy 35 year old.

Active, happy, healthy and only 35, Barbara’s shock health crisis was the catalyst for a complete life overhaul.

When Barbara began getting terrible headaches, she put them down to stress – even though she was loving her life. Doctors and physios agreed that Barbara’s headaches must be stress related. After all, the Kalgoorlie recruitment consultant was fit, healthy – she’d never smoked and rarely drank – and only 35.

But the headaches became so bad she had ringing in her ears and felt nauseous. So sick she could barely stand up anymore, Barbara began to get worried.

“One day I went to pick up the phone and I couldn’t hold it. That’s when I started really freaking out,” she says. Barbara phoned her sister, who took her to hospital. After an initial consultation she was given a cat scan, and booked in for a second…

“The following Friday morning I had a nap, and when I woke up I didn’t know where anything was. I didn’t ’t know where my jeans were, I didn’t know where my hairbrush was.” Barbara’s partner rushed her to hospital. The doctor took one look and said she was having a rare form of stroke.

Barbara went into intensive care and two days later, her family was informed she was close to death, as blood clots in the brain were blocking the blood flow.

In the blink of an eye, she’d lost everything.



Barbara (left) after the stroke in 2009.

After ten days in hospital, Barbara was finally cleared to go home. She recovered in only two months, but was forever changed. “I was just lost. I’d lost all confidence. It felt like my body was going against me and I was so worried it would happen again. Even though I still had this amazing job, wonderful partner and great family I was grieving who I once was, because I really was different. I wasn’t in a good place,” she admits.

It was a downward spiral. Worried about raising her heart rate and triggering another clot, Barbara ditched her regular workouts and put on 15 kilos. “I didn’t trust my body or my abilities any more. The I became angry because I’d put on weight and my body didn’t feel like mine anymore. I was horrible to my partner, and my family and my friends. And then, in December 2012, I pretty much hit rock bottom. I just got really, really sad about the way I felt and looked, and I thought ‘I can’t go on like this’,” Barbara says.

With her self-esteem at an all time low, an emotional recovery seemed impossible. Then Barbara watched The Biggest Loser. “I saw these really big people running and I thought ‘if they can do it, surely I can do it’. And I loved how Michelle genuinely wanted the best for them. I cried during the finale, and then I signed up for 12WBT,” she says.

Faced with the very first Pre-Season task on getting real and ditching excuses, Barbara shed more tears. “It really hit home. I hadn’t acknowledged what I’d been through, and I just sat there saying, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I realised it was fear that was holding me back.”

At that moment fear lost its hold on Barbara and she began to move forward. While the weight didn’t drop off as she’d first hoped, Barbara completed her first Round having achieved something just as valuable: “I finally got my head right, and I learned that I had to be kinder to myself,” she says.

Barbara’s whole life changed as she became happier, braver, stronger and more proud of herself. She was no longer afraid of going to the gym and training with the guys, no longer embarrassed about having her photo taken. She ditched her job to start her own business as a personal travel manager, her dream career. “The funny thing is, this particular opportunity had presented itself to me before. But there was something holding me back, and I was scared. If I didn’t have the confidence I found through 12WBT there is no way I could have done it!” she laughs.

The same goes for Barbara’s new role as an ambassador for the National Stroke Foundation. “I hate public speaking but now my life is about being brave. I know it’s clichéd but I feel like what happened, happened for a reason.”



Barbara (left) is happy again, with friends in Bali 2012.

With the weight lifted from her mind, 39 year old Barbara is doing her second 12WBT. “The mental change has already happened, so this Round is about weight loss and the physical change that needs to happen. I have so much to look forward to,” she says.

[box] Barbara’s Top Tips

“When you go through a health crisis like a stroke, you find yourself with a new life. It might not be the one that you’ve chosen, but there are still so many amazing things you can do. My baby steps might look different to someone else’s. You just have to give yourself time, and it does get better. It totally comes down to mindset.”

“Find a support crew for your life. My partner is my biggest supporter in everything – my recovery, 12WBT, and my new business. You can’t do it without that.”

“The way you look at things from the inside will always affect the way you look on the outside. Focus on getting your head right first.”

Your life could look dramatically different in 12 weeks time. Register your interest in the next 12 Week Body Transformation today!

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