By Daphne Taylor Street, Contributing Writer
National celebrity Forbes Riley is a model for health: Her life revolves around eating right, exercising and maintaining a positive attitude. But late last year she found herself on the brink of death. A large kidney stone had lodged in a tube, causing dangerous levels of toxins to enter into her blood stream, and with a temperature of 103 and blood pressure of 70/17, Riley was rushed into emergency surgery.
Doctors hovered over her, unsure if they could save her. Riley spent two nights in intensive care and four nights in a New York City hospital, almost 1,200 miles from her family in St. Petersburg.
“You don’t have anything if you don’t have your health,” says Riley, an inductee in the National Fitness Hall of Fame and mother of 10-year-old twins Ryker and Makenna. “Lying in a hospital bed or barely being able to push your IV along the floor, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, everything I’ve dreamed and hoped for might never happen. I can’t lose this. I can’t lose my life.’ ”
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The story has a happy ending: By the end of a traumatic week, Riley was back home and recovering quickly. But how could someone so healthy have gotten so sick?
“Stress,” Riley says. “They say that stress kills. I now know how absolutely true that is.”
In Riley’s case, it was stress from a business growing too fast. Just weeks before her work trip to New York, she completed a 24-hour marathon on HSN, selliing 61,000 SpinGyms, her signature product. Meanwhile, she had recently completed an overhaul of her studio in St. Petersburg, began teaching an intensive 10-week weight-loss program, and was on major deadline pressure for her latest book.
“I’d never had this level of success or risk,” Riley says. “I started to get panicky.”
And as the panic set in, Riley forgot to take care of herself.
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Looking back, Riley tells us what went wrong.
Not enough water: “I’d literally laugh to myself thinking, ‘How funny, I don’t think I had any water today.’ All of a sudden I’m doing the one thing
I know is really bad for me: drinking diet soda. Now why would I drink diet soda when I know the health risks associated with them? Mostly because it’s ridiculously addictive. The more you pop them, the more you want.”
These days, water is not a joke. “I set my alarm on my phone to go off every hour to make sure that I have adequate water,” Riley says.
The wrong words: Riley is proficient in neuro-linguistic programming, which focuses on the power of words and how they help shape and reflect our beliefs, which manifests in our bodies. She coaches Fortune 500 CEOs and local entrepreneurs. So imagine her surprise when she found herself saying out loud, “I think I’m making myself sick.” Three weeks later is when Riley found herself in New York, ready to shoot a fitness infomercial but instead ending up almost dead in the hospital.
Stress: Things were going great, but great things also cause stress. In Riley’s case, having so many opportunities also meant that she lost track of things that really matter.
Now Riley is recommitted to meditation to help manage stress and set priorities. “Every day for 20 minutes I meditate, and every day I’m grateful that I’m alive, that I can see my children and that I have another day to get my message across,” she says. “Meditation in gratitude gives me a sense of peace and calm that I haven’t had in a long time.”
Daphne Taylor Street, a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, can be reached through her website, StreetMedia.info.
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