A young woman who suffered a stroke aged just 22 is now using her experiences to support others who have suffered the condition.
Hayley Mars, from Preston, will take on the Resolution Run in Heaton Park, Manchester on Sunday, April 7, in aid of the Stroke Association.
The 24-year-old suffered a stroke in 2016, which was caused by a hole in her heart.
As she was young and healthy, and there was no family history of the illness, the ordeal was a huge shock.
She said: “I cycled a lot and I wasn’t overweight. I didn’t take part in any behaviours associated with risk factors for stroke and I don’t have a family history of stroke. It seemed to come out of the blue. Just bad luck.
“However, I was fortunate that it was a minor stroke. I recognised the symptoms straight away, meaning that the NHS were able to act quickly and prevent wide-spread damage. I lost a bit of my sense of direction and felt confused, but these were small problems which resolved within a week or two.
“The greatest impact my stroke had on me was on my sense of self. When that sense of invincibility is shaken, it doesn’t feel great.
“As a result, I allowed my misfortune to overshadow my identity, allowing it to define me through self-pity. Thankfully that stage has passed.”
Hayley underwent an operation to have the hole closed and is now much fitter and ready for a challenge to support other stroke survivors.
She added: “It’s almost two years since my operation and the whole incident feels so far in the past that it doesn’t seem real.
“In many ways, I am grateful for my stroke. It gave me perspective and changed my outlook on life. It made me appreciate those around me and the support they gave me during that testing period of my life. It made me appreciate my own resilience.
“I was extremely lucky to have such a support network around me. However, I know that this isn’t always the case.
“The Stroke Association contacted me with support and advice and caught up with me several times during my ordeal.
“I’m taking part in the Resolution Run to help other stroke survivors get the support they need and to draw a line under my own experience. I’m fit and healthy now and finally feel as though I’ve come to terms with the fact that it happened.”
Sian Thomas, regional fund-raiser at the Stroke Association, said: “In the UK there are around 100,000 strokes every year. Our latest research shows that by training and taking part in a Resolution Run, you are helping to lower your stroke risk.
“The funds raised by each runner means we can reach out to more stroke survivors and their families to offer the support that they may need to rebuild their lives.
“Research shows many strokes could be prevented if people made some simple lifestyle changes.
“Introducing physical activity into your routine is just one aspect of a healthier lifestyle required to reduce your risk of stroke. “Monitoring your blood pressure, eating a more balanced diet and stopping smoking can all significantly reduce your stroke risk.”
Entry fee is £16.
For more information about entering or volunteering at the Resolution Run, visit www.resolutionrun.org.uk, email email@example.com or call 0300 330 0740.