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Her Life Was On The Line. She Answered 'Gotta Go'

June 01, 2024 4 min read 13 Comments

Her Life Was On The Line. She Answered 'Gotta Go'

This is Carole Stanford of San Jose while she was losing her battle with rheumatoid arthritis. There is a picture at the end of this story that gives an update. Of course, you can read the story, too, for the update.



By Ray Glier

Carole Stanford was so exasperated by her rheumatoid arthritis she blurted out over the phone to her mom one day, “I’m not going to make it to 50!”

Carole was 48 years old and RA was wreaking havoc on her lungs and heart. If she had to walk more than 10 feet, Stanford used a wheelchair because walking across the room left her gasping for air.

The despair in that moment on the phone with her mom was understandable, but Carole realized immediately she had crossed a forbidden threshold.

It sounded like she was quitting. She wasn’t quitting.

“I gotta go, mom,” she told Minnie, her mom. “I gotta get off the phone.”

Stanford’s ‘Gotta go’ was a decree.

“When that came out of my mouth, that I wasn’t going to make it to 50, that was the moment I decided I was going to fight for my life,” Carole said. “I had a sophomore in college, a junior and 9th-grader in high school. I was doing the best I could for them, but I needed to try harder.”

She changed doctors of osteopath and the new doc eased off the medicines that had made her weight balloon to 195. Her diet was adjusted and Stanford, an athlete in college, forced herself to start walking.

Just as important, Carole said she rid herself of the hopelessness by doctors who only said “this is what RA does” when she was confronted by a new symptom.

Look at the picture above and then scroll down and look at the picture at the bottom of the story.

Go ahead….look…we’ll wait here.

It took five years to get the RA under control. Carole, who lives in San Jose, Ca., is 61 now. She competed in 50 outdoor events in 2023 for the Sierra Gold Track Club. 

I always wonder if Geezer Jock focuses too much on these comeback-from-the-brink stories. Then I realize that many of us do have to rally from injury or disease as we get older.

**

Stanford is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the world in the hammer (W60-64) with a heave of 39.34 meters on April 28. 

Carole's goal is to go to Sweden this summer and win a gold medal in the World Masters Athletics championships. She has set up a Go Fund Me page.

Her goal for gold in 2024 is a big difference from her goal from 2010-2015, which was just to survive.

If Carole needed to be in an operating room at 5:30 a.m. to train someone on the ophthalmology devices her company sold, she had to get up at 3 a.m. for the 40-mile trip because she needed to break up the drive with a nap. Stanford said she could barely grip the steering wheel.

Once she arrived at the hospital, Carole still had to walk across the parking lot to the entrance and that was an ordeal.

Carole finally had to take a year off from her job. Even the typical cotton bed sheets caused her pain because of what the RA was doing to her skin. It was painful to even shake hands with clients.

Stanford was a Division I athlete in track & field at the University of California-Irvine. And that ultimately helped save her life.

“I knew what discipline was in training,” Carole said. “I ran track from the time I was 9 until I was 22. There's a lot of discipline that you develop. You know that something's not going to be easy, but you have to do it to get to where you want.”

There is more background to her resilience. Carole is the daughter of a 30-year Navy man. She is one of eight children, which taught resourcefulness and independence. Stanford also did a stint in the U.S. Navy.

It took five years to get the disease under control. “I created short victories,” Carole said. “One step in front of another.”

By 2021, Carole was ready to see how far she had come.

Stanford said she entered a race challenge called a 4X4X48 where you run or walk four miles every four hours for 48 straight hours. “It was designed by a Navy SEAL and it was brutal,” Carole said.

“I did it. I was constantly looking for ways to push my body to make my body remember that it's alive. That event pushed my body."

It is constant work to stay ahead of the RA. 

"The biggest thing I have changed is to monitor how I feel, I monitor my energy level and my diet," Stanford said. "I try to avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation. This helps me prevent injuries as well as increases my ability to perform."

Carole works with a specialist to monitor the disease with routine lab work and adjusts training, if needed, based on the result.


There are some vital lessons Stanford learned in this journey.

1) “If you feel like you can get better care, if you feel like you're not being heard by your doctor, then go somewhere else, or keep fighting until you're listened to because I definitely had to do that.”

2) “I learned a lot about giving people grace. I used to think that people just didn't do certain things because they were just lazy, or they didn't care, but I didn't know their story. I had a doctor judge me that way where he thought I was just a lazy person that didn't want to do anything without knowing anything about me. To him, I just looked like this blown up person that didn't want to do anything.”

3) “This disease and this fight teaches you to be grateful. The biggest thing I think I've learned is gratitude.”

Stanford also understands better how much influence Geezer Jocks can wield. One of her sons was in boot camp and finding it a challenge, as it is supposed to be. She told him about her challenge of doing the 4X4X48 and succeeding. He was inspired by his mom and found another gear and thrived in the military.

Carole passed on that "gotta go" gene.

 


13 Responses

Deborah
Deborah

June 10, 2024

This story is so inspiring! I will stop complaining about my own aches and pains. Apparently it’s not over unless we decide to give up. Thank you Carole for your story. And thanks to Ray for this website!

Reggie Boyd
Reggie Boyd

June 04, 2024

Carol is a long time friend and someone who I consider a sister. At this point I went into a relapse in my psoriatic arthritis. I see Carol as a role model and inspiration. I know the struggle of fighting through obstacles. When I see what she has accomplished I see the spirit that bonded us as parents, as life long friends and women who never quit in the face of adversary. I’m so honored to see you achieve so much Carole.

Linda Harper
Linda Harper

June 04, 2024

What a beautiful story about a beautiful woman. I must admit I cried while reading this. You are an inspiration to all who know you and those who have just made your acquaintance. Email me about your upcoming trip to Sweden 🇸🇪

Coach Collins
Coach Collins

June 04, 2024

Carole is a tremendous competitor and a fantastic teammate. She brings energy and focus to every practice. We our excited to watch her progression in the hammer, discus and javelin. There is no limit to her mountain top.

John Stanford Jr
John Stanford Jr

June 04, 2024

Carole is my niece and got into hot water for saying it way back then. I stood by it then and stand by it. Ready Forward Carole!!!

Ed
Ed

June 04, 2024

Carole rocks!

Carole  Stanford
Carole Stanford

June 04, 2024

Thank you, Ray,

I am honored that you chose to share my story.
To anyone is inspired. I happy that I could share my story.

René Sprattling
René Sprattling

June 02, 2024

As one of our team members, Carole is a great inspiration to all of us geezer jocks who have watched her make tremendous strides in her throwing abilities in a relatively short period of time. She is truely 3D strong! (Disipline, Determination, Dedication).

Joe Hoover
Joe Hoover

June 02, 2024

Wow! Unbelievable story! I have several family and friends with RA and know what it does to the body. You are a terrific example of not giving up when dealt a very tough hand! Best of luck in Sweden!

Great story as usual, Ray!

Joan Hughes
Joan Hughes

June 02, 2024

Love this story Ray. Keep up the great writing. Good for Carole she is amazing and admirable. Keep moving forward.

Deedee Murphy
Deedee Murphy

June 02, 2024

Resilience, gratitude, and making sure people hear you. Good advice for all of us!

Karla Del Grande
Karla Del Grande

June 01, 2024

Amazing resilience and grit!! I love how you told this story, Ray. Love the ending … but it’s clearly not over for Carole yet!

Liz Richards
Liz Richards

June 01, 2024

Wow! RA is tough! Sounds like a real miracle occurred here. Great work Carole! Making your life happen your way😊

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