How one gymnast followed her intuition to make a stressful decision.
Written By: Mandy Welch
In gymnastics, intuition is a key component of success.
While the sport clearly involves the movement, power and control of the body, many times, the strength of the mind is overlooked. Many skills in gymnastics involve feeling, timing, and trusting without seeing. For example, when mastering a release move on bars, a one-second error in the timing of the release can change the trajectory of the gymnast so she completely misses the bar.
A gymnast’s intuition is really tested when a mistake is made and the gymnast must make a split second decision on how to fall without getting injured. Gymnasts use tremendous amounts of muscle power, but without the ability to rely on intuition to help them to make quick decisions, it would be impossible.
The tough part is to trust what your intuition is telling you.
Rori was a typical teenager who was busy attending high school, working out at the gym every week, and spending time on social media, when suddenly, something began to change. At first, she was just having slight headaches and felt a little extra tired. Then, her performance in school and gymnastics began to decline. Rori was noticing some uncharacteristic mood swings and just wasn’t feeling like her funny, best self. Rori assumed she was just getting sick and decided to wait it out. However, instead of getting better, the headaches got much worse, becoming extremely painful, even debilitating.
When she couldn’t take it anymore, Rori desperately told her mom, “We need to go to the doctor and fix this!”
Rori and her mom arrived at the doctor’s appointment anxious for answers and a solution for the pain, but Rori’s doctor didn’t seem to take her very seriously. She told Rori that her headaches were probably caused from wearing her hair too tightly during gymnastics. Rori had been a gymnast her whole life and had worn her hair up the entire time, yet had never felt pain like this before. It can be difficult for an adult to challenge a medical professional, let alone a teenager, so although Rori felt deep down that the doctor was wrong, she was hesitant to speak up. Disheartened and frustrated, Rori and her mom left with no help and no answers.
Despite it being very difficult, especially during gymnastics, Rori followed the doctor’s advice and stopped wearing her hair up. It didn’t work. Her headaches continued to worsen and now, her nerves did too as she knew deep down something wasn’t right. Rori’s mom called the doctor again, but this time, she scheduled an MRI.
The MRI proved to be more difficult than anticipated, as the thought of what it may uncover was daunting. Up until now, Rori hadn’t told anyone outside of her family what she was going through. She hadn’t told any teachers at school and didn’t know what to say to her teammates at the gym either. Not even her closest friends knew what she was going through. It was frightening and lonely. After the MRI, Rori had practice, but she just couldn’t seem to calm her nerves. Reluctantly, Rori told two of her coaches what was going on. To her relief, they were incredibly supportive and told her to take a break. They encouraged her not to think the worst or worry too much before the results came in. Still, deep inside, Rori couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a reason to worry. Her intuition was telling her so.
The following Thursday, the MRI results came in. Rori listened in dismay as she was told that a benign tumor had been found in the third ventricle of her brain which was blocking the spinal fluid from flowing. Her only option for relief was to have surgery to attempt the removal of the tumor. If that wasn’t alarming enough, the doctors told her that success wasn’t guaranteed. This diagnosis terrified Rori. She didn’t want to tell anyone what she was going through and wished vehemently to go back to the days when life felt normal. Pretending nothing was wrong, she gave her best at school and practice, but inside, she was secretly struggling. Not only from the intense pain, but now fear as well. The weight of this decision was causing Rori to break down into tears at school and at practice.Ordinary things were also becoming more and more difficult. Rori’s doctor had her on medication that made it hard to focus, so school was becoming more strenuous. Additionally, the pain just wasn’t going away. One night, it had become so intense that it landed her in the Emergency Room after practice. That was it. Rori had hit her limit and decided- enough was enough. She explained to her mom that she had decided she wanted to have the surgery.
Frightened, her mom grabbed her hand and asked, “What if it doesn’t work?” To this, Rori replied, “What if it does?”
As soon as possible, Rori’s mom scheduled the surgery. Immediately, the weight of the decision was lifted, only to be replaced by new fears and uncertainties. In addition to her natural apprehension regarding the actual procedure, Rori felt saddened knowing how much the surgery and its’ recovery would cause her to miss. Social events, school functions, and important gymnastics meets would all proceed without her. She knew it was time to tell her teammates and a few of her closest friends, so she gathered her courage and told them everything.
Doing so gave her tremendous relief as her friends were unbelievably loving and supportive. Their support gave her strength and made her feel as if she wasn’t facing this burden alone. She was ready to face this challenge head-on. She knew in her heart it was what she needed to do- her intuition was telling her so.
Before long, the day of the surgery came. Rori was frightened but ready. Most of the day was a blur, but then it happened. The doctors expertly accomplished exactly what they set out to do and… it was a success!! The tumor had been removed, and finally, Rori was able to begin healing.
The days immediately following surgery were tough. Rori spent most of the week in the Intensive Care Unit, not able to keep food down. Once again, feelings of dread and loneliness crept in. These were quickly halted by a visit from her two best friends. The love and support they brought was like a breath of fresh air for Rori and it once again gave her the strength she needed.
Soon, Rori was strong enough to read the messages that were pouring in from her many friends who were sending her love. It felt so good not to be alone in this fight and the kind words gave Rori hope and happiness. Finally, after an extremely long week, Rori’s doctors determined she was ready to go home.
After more rest and lots of rehabilitation at home, Rori began feeling restless and was eager to get back to school and gymnastics. She was ready to revive her funny, best self RIGHT NOW. Nevertheless, there was no quick fix. Rori would need to take her progression slowly. The school worked with Rori and she began meeting with a teacher at home for a mere five hours a week. Then, as her eyes and strength improved, she was cleared to attend school for half days. At about 12 weeks post surgery, Rori was back to school full time.Rori got back into the gym a little quicker. After only eight weeks, she was back in the gym working basics on low bar and low beam. Motivated by the desire to compete in the next meet with her teammates, the following week, Rori was back to working full routines. Many skills that she once found easy were now quite difficult and she had a lot of strength to rebuild, but muscle memory is a magical thing and Rori was gaining momentum! After only being back for approximately two weeks, she competed at the Rolling Thunder Invite and took home first place medals on Bars, Beam and All Around and second place medals on vault and floor.
While being an excellent student and talented gymnast are phenomenal; it was Rori’s decision to follow her intuition in the face of fear that is most remarkable. Even though listening to her intuition meant facing a frightening diagnosis and all that came with it, Rori trusted her feelings and made important decisions regarding her health. She never let fear, loneliness or pain overcome her and endured an undeniably frightening experience with grace and strength. Then, on top of it all, she didn’t let it stand in the way of what she wanted. It would have been easy for her to let this be the end of her gymnastics career, but instead, Rori is working even harder than she worked before to simply get back to where she was. She is a great example of what trusting your intuition, mixed with a lot of determination, can bring.
Mastering skills in the gym will take you places but learning to trust your intuition will help you inside and outside the gym. May we all remember Rori’s story when faced with tough decisions and be true to our own intuition!
Follow Rori on Instagram @rori.foster2022 to show your support and to cheer her on through her successes!