Can you tell us more about you and your sporting background?
I have always been sporty. When I was a teenager I competed for English schools in cross-country and also national level swimming. Sport was a huge part of our childhood, mine and my 2 brothers.
In my 20s and 30s I was working in the fitness industry already running my own business of Janette Cardy Fitness. I always knew I wanted to be offering a variety of things and to work for myself. I was fit but not really competing or training for any specific event. I was mainly fit for my job to be able to run with clients, or to teach a number of classes in a day.
There are plenty of examples where being fit isn’t necessarily a guarantee that you will lead a healthy life. Your own experiences are testament to that but you’ve managed to turn this very dark period in your life into a source of strength for others. Please tell us more.
As I was approaching my 40th birthday I remember struggling with this, thinking “How have I gotten to middle age!” However, within a month of my birthday I was losing a lot of weight and couldn’t go more than 40 min without having something to eat. I couldn’t sleep as it felt like my heart was coming out of my chest.
I knew I wasn’t well, but thought it might be early menopause. However, during a class, I had a “moment” where my arm swelled up, I lost use of speech and didn’t know where I was. It didn’t last long but it was a little scary.
I spoke to a doctor friend of mine and he suggested I visit my GP. I was sent to the hospital for an MRI and it transpired I had had a stroke.
However, as it had happened a couple of weeks prior to the MRI, I decided to not tell anyone and not to worry about it. I just carried on working just as hard as before.
Within 2 weeks, it happened again and I collapsed. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital and it transpired I had had another one. These were 2 full blown strokes but because I was fit and strong I gained speech, motor skills and balance back fairly quickly.
About 2 weeks after this I knew I was still unwell so took myself to A&E and thankfully met a professional who specialised in thyroids. He basically saved my life. It turned out I had Graves’ disease, and my readings were off the chart. This is what had caused the strokes, and in that doctor’s words he didn’t know how I was still alive.
Within a few months I had to have the thyroid removed as they said I couldn’t risk another stroke. At this point, I was feeling fairly positive, thinking that as soon as the thyroid was out I would be able to get on with living, and that perhaps being 40 wasn’t so bad after all!
However, during the operation, my vocal chords were damaged and I was left unable to speak in anything over a light whisper. I couldn’t speak in public, I couldn’t speak on the phone and I was told fitness as a job and hobby might not be possible for me in the future. I hit rock bottom at this point.
But after a few weeks of really hiding from the world, I decided I needed to set some goals to get me back on my feet:
• Set up an online fitness business
• Speak again. At this point I was having speech therapy and I committed to my exercises like crazy.
• Wear a GB vest in a sport. Any sport.
Within 6 months, I was speaking again. I had set up my online fitness business as an add-on to the other things I did and I qualified for GB in Aquathlon (swimming and running) World Championships (age group). I came 5th in that World Championship so I decided to add on an extra goal: To get up on the podium.
The following year (2014), I won the European Championships in Germany and silver at the World Championships in Canada.
For me, getting through this dark period was about taking control of the things I could, and letting go of the things I could not. Resilience, fighting adversity and goal-setting definitely worked for me.
Although you haven’t turned the corner, has making this a key part of your working life and talking about your life experiences ultimately helped you?
I am on meds for life. I have to go to the hospital for tests regularly. It’s something I just have to live with.
I recently started working for Inspiring Women, sharing my story and how I turned such a dark time into a positive experience. I go into companies and help them to work on confidence, mindset and achieving their goals.
I am a different person. I find joy in simple things now. Every day I appreciate being alive.
We’re looking forward to hearing more from you at BIO2020. What can delegates expect?
Delegates at BIO2020 can expect an inspiring, honest account of my story, but also how I have learnt from my own near-death experience to become the best version of myself.
I want to share, inspire and motivate as many people as possible to find joy in life and to appreciate having a healthy mind, body and soul.
Hear Janette speak at BIO2020, 2nd-4th June 2020. For tickets visit: www.businessinoxford.com