The wife of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford wrote a first-person essay for ESPN in which she described her journey from first experiencing dizziness, having a benign tumor removed during surgery on April 17, and working to regain her health.
The mother of three described her thoughts after receiving the diagnosis that she had a benign tumor known as an acoustic neuroma sitting on her cranial nerves.
Doctors told her there was a 50% chance she could lose her hearing, as well as the possibility that she could lose facial function.
"What if this thing gets taken out and something goes wrong?'' she wrote. "What if something happens before that? My biggest fear is not being here, and not being here to raise my girls."
She remembered Matthew telling her before her surgery that if the outcome was positive, he would be standing on her right when she woke up, and if it wasn't, he would be standing on her left.
"I don't remember much after waking up, but I do know he was standing on my right side,'' she wrote.
Kelly decided to share her journey of recovery on Instagram after discussing it with Matthew to show that professional athletes have human issues just like anyone else.
"Not only did I want to let people know what I was going through, I wanted to say: It's OK to be scared, regardless of your situation,'' she wrote.
Her first task was having to relearn how to walk with the help of a physical therapist.
"I grew up playing so many sports, putting one foot in front of the other should be second nature for anybody,'' she wrote. "But for me at that point, it was really tough."
Stafford didn't see the couple's children until nearly two weeks after the procedure and did not have the strength to lift them. She also struggled with loud noises, so Matthew taught the girls to whisper.
A breakthrough came in August, when she was able to start boxing again for exercise.
"It was always really challenging, but now with my brain it's far more challenging, because of the hand movements that are so quick, that are so hard to comprehend,'' she wrote. "After those workouts, I'm drained — mentally and physically. Boxing is my therapy outside of therapy."
Stafford said she has only been to one Lions game this year because she struggles with the loud noise and constant movement. She indicated she may look into getting hearing aids.
There is one message she hopes to share as she approaches the six-month mark from her surgery on Thursday.
"If there's anything I want people to take away from my story, it's for mothers,'' she wrote. "If you ever feel the slightest bit off, you need to take the time to get it checked out. You don't have to put everything on your back. Sometimes, you need to take some time to make sure you are OK."