Kelly Stafford, wife of NFL star Matt Stafford, shares her grueling journey back from surgery

One day in January, the room started spinning for Kelly Stafford. It turned out to be the beginning of an ordeal that led to a 12-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor.

The wife of Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and mother of three opened up to NBC Detroit affiliate WDIV about her grueling recovery from surgery in April to remove a benign brain tumor.

“I’m relearning how to move again,” she said. “I push myself. I try. It’s really because I have a great support when I come home.”

Kelly, 36, felt something was wrong when she experienced multiple instances of vertigo beginning in January.

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“The room just kind of started spinning on me,” she said. “I was holding our newborn at that point, and I kind of just like almost threw her to Matthew because I felt myself going down.

“I thought it was time to go at least get her looked at and see if it vertigo,” Matt Stafford told the station.

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This is a picture of Matthew & I the day we found out. I said I wanted this picture of us, so that the day this was all over, we could look back at this photo & remember. Within the last year, I began to notice things that I thought was just me getting older.. I would show my girls how to do a front roll or twirl in ballet class and immediately feel dizzy & off balance… Things that I had been doing my entire life were now, all of a sudden, difficult. The beginning of Jan was when I experienced my first spell of vertigo..It kept happening & then it happened while I was holding Hunter. Matthew took me straight to the ER. They checked vitals & bloodwork, all were fine.. Several vertigo spells later, Matthew’s team doctor recommended we go get an MRI of my brain to rule everything major out. A few days later we were hit with the results. I had a tumor sitting on some of my cranial nerves. The medical term they used was an acoustic neuroma or vestibular schwannoma.. All I heard was brain tumor & that they had to do surgery to take it out.. so that is what we are going to do & we believe we found the best doctor to do it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely terrified of brain surgery. I am. I am terrified of them opening my head, I’m terrified of losing my hearing, I’m terrified of losing facial function, I’m terrified of far worse things that could happen and I’m terrified that I won’t take the time I need to recover because the guilt I might feel of being absent from my kids for too long.. I am telling y’all this to ask for prayers and support. Things to pray for: -calmness in these next 2 weeks as I know anxiety will run high in myself & my whole family leading up to the day of surgery. -that God be in the room with the surgeons & give them all the guidance, steadiness, & confidence they need. -my safety during and after surgery. -please pray for matthew as I know his nerves will be high during this surgery. I couldn’t imagine being out in that waiting room. Thank u. Thank u for reading this novel. thank u for all your support and most importantly, thank u for your prayers.

A post shared by Kelly Stafford (@kbstafford89) on

This is a picture of Matthew & I the day we found out.I said I wanted this picture of us, so that the day this was all over, we could look back at this photo & remember. Within the last year, I began to notice things that I thought was just me getting older.. I would show my girls how to do a front roll or twirl in ballet class and immediately feel dizzy & off balance… Things that I had been doing my entire life were now, all of a sudden, difficult.The beginning of Jan was when I experienced my first spell of vertigo..It kept happening & then it happened while I was holding Hunter. Matthew took me straight to the ER. They checked vitals & bloodwork, all were fine.. Several vertigo spells later, Matthew’s team doctor recommended we go get an MRI of my brain to rule everything major out. A few days later we were hit with the results.I had a tumor sitting on some of my cranial nerves. The medical term they used was an acoustic neuroma or vestibular schwannoma.. All I heard was brain tumor & that they had to do surgery to take it out.. so that is what we are going to do & we believe we found the best doctor to do it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely terrified of brain surgery. I am. I am terrified of them opening my head, I’m terrified of losing my hearing, I’m terrified of losing facial function, I’m terrified of far worse things that could happen and I’m terrified that I won’t take the time I need to recover because the guilt I might feel of being absent from my kids for too long.. I am telling y’all this to ask for prayers and support. Things to pray for: -calmness in these next 2 weeks as I know anxiety will run high in myself & my whole family leading up to the day of surgery. -that God be in the room with the surgeons & give them all the guidance, steadiness, & confidence they need. -my safety during and after surgery. -please pray for matthew as I know his nerves will be high during this surgery. I couldn’t imagine being out in that waiting room.Thank u. Thank u for reading this novel. thank u for all your support and most importantly, thank u for your prayers.

A post shared byKelly Stafford (@kbstafford89) on

An MRI of her brain revealed that she had a benign brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma that was sitting on some of her cranial nerves. Despite being benign, the tumor is still known to cause hearing loss and facial paralysis.

“I don’t know if this doctor didn’t know that I didn’t know, she pulls up my MRI and goes, ‘Well, here is your brain tumor,”’ she said. “We had no idea.”

Doctors decided to quickly operate, resulting in a surgery on April 17 that lasted 12 hours.

“I remember sitting down with them in the waiting room and just losing it,” Kelly said.

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This Easter is the beginning of a new life for me.I wanna take a second to thank all of you for all the prayers. They have worked. I know they have.When they opened me up, I had an abnormal vein.. maybe abnormal for other neurosurgeons, but not the one We chose. He had seen it before and written a paper on it. That’s truly God’s work. The prayers for my family, I’m beyond thankful for. A six hour surgery went to 12 hours and although they were anxious and scared, your prayers got them through. Thank you. Thank you so much. Now I am home and learning my new norm. It’ll take some time, but I really just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for all your support, thoughts and prayers. It means more than y’all will ever know. #cupscrew

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Matt was in the waiting room receiving sporadic updates via text message during the surgery.

“They couldn’t go, ‘Here’s three paragraphs of what’s happening,”’ Matt said. “It was kind of like ‘ran into a hurdle, expect the surgery to go two hours longer than expected.”’

An inspiring video showed Kelly walking just a day after the surgery.

“He never left my side,” she said. “I mean when I say I couldn’t do anything. He had to be by my side at every moment.”

The support of the couple’s three young daughters has also helped Kelly in her recovery.

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I’m home. I’m home and I got to spend a few hours with my little humans. It filled my heart so much. I can’t even describe it. I wish they could stay, but I know I’m not ready for all of it. When they took out the tumor, they also wiped out the entire balance system on my right side. I wish I could explain it, but I think it’s something you have to experience. I can’t turn my head right without feeling college drunk.. I’m talking end of the night, cant put one foot in front of the other, knowing you’ll be sleeping on the bathroom floor, college drunk. I have to rework my brain to know that it can only rely on my left side, which will take time, a good amount of time. And when there are two toddlers running below your feet while you are trying to relearn basic things like walking.. it makes it seem like there are a million more moving parts to it.. maybe because there are. It’s tough to go from a very active woman to having to relearn the basics of being an athlete, but these little girls give me so much strength. I want to be able to teach them every sport I learned and the day they beat me (I’m sure it’ll come fast) .. I’ll humble them by reminding them I’m only working with one side of my brain ? I miss them. I miss them so much, but I’m so grateful I got that time today and now I have my inspiration to keep on pushing!

A post shared by Kelly Stafford (@kbstafford89) on

I’m home. I’m home and I got to spend a few hours with my little humans. It filled my heart so much. I can’t even describe it.I wish they could stay, but I know I’m not ready for all of it.When they took out the tumor, they also wiped out the entire balance system on my right side. I wish I could explain it, but I think it’s something you have to experience. I can’t turn my head right without feeling college drunk.. I’m talking end of the night, cant put one foot in front of the other, knowing you’ll be sleeping on the bathroom floor, college drunk. I have to rework my brain to know that it can only rely on my left side, which will take time, a good amount of time. And when there are two toddlers running below your feet while you are trying to relearn basic things like walking.. it makes it seem like there are a million more moving parts to it.. maybe because there are.It’s tough to go from a very active woman to having to relearn the basics of being an athlete, but these little girls give me so much strength. I want to be able to teach them every sport I learned and the day they beat me (I’m sure it’ll come fast) .. I’ll humble them by reminding them I’m only working with one side of my brain ? I miss them. I miss them so much, but I’m so grateful I got that time today and now I have my inspiration to keep on pushing!

A post shared byKelly Stafford (@kbstafford89) on

“Kids are great in the sense that you can’t dwell on things,” she said. “They make you get up. They make you keep going.”

Kelly has had to diligently work to recover her mobility. She wrote in an Instagram post on April 26 that the surgery “wiped out the entire balance system on my right side.”

Boxing is the best workout I can do. It’s not only so tiring physically, but for me, it’s exhausting mentally. My brain is having to figure out all these moving parts.. and at a very fast pace. Sometimes I get dizzy, but I know that’s my brain learning and it’s good for me to push it. 3rd day with @jimlifefitness and I’m loving every second of it.??? #staffordstrong

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However, in the four months since the surgery, she has gone from just learning how to move again to getting in the gym and boxing.

“She’s an incredible role model to our girls,” Matt said. “I’m just really proud of her.”

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