Ep 107 – Play the Hand You’re Dealt: Choosing to Thrive Despite a Rare Genetic Condition and Congenital Heart Defect with Stephen Douglas

Ep 107 – Play the Hand You’re Dealt: Choosing to Thrive Despite a Rare Genetic Condition and Congenital Heart Defect with Stephen Douglas

“I had seen all these different elements come into play of how fitness can impact your life and how CrossFit was working for some people and how bodybuilding was working for some and now even the [Tough Mudder] races.  And it was like, okay, now I have some tools. I have a reason to do it. Let’s go.  And that’s really when I started training almost every single day and started seeing some pretty quick changes, and it’s just amazing because I realized, ok, yeah there’s a lot of things that I can’t help. There are a lot of things that were taken out of my control very early, but I’m not gonna focus on that, I’m gonna focus on what God has given me the ability to impact. I can choose how I use my time.  I can choose what my activities are.  Doctors, they can tell me, okay, your lungs are only working at 50 or 60%.  Your heart is only working at 50%. They can’t tell me what I’m gonna do with that 50 or 60%... and it’s been a crazy ride. - Stephen Douglas

From the day he was born, Stephen Douglas has faced more obstacles than the average person.  Diagnosed at birth with a heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, Stephen underwent open heart surgery at just 7 months of age.  Throughout his early childhood, his heart condition, combined with asthma, meant Stephen had to be cautious not to exert himself too much physically or participate in contact sports.

At the age of 10, Stephen was dealt another challenge after his dentist found a cyst growing in his jaw.  He was diagnosed with Gorlin syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes thousands of skin cancers, jaw cysts, and bone cysts.  He underwent treatment for the condition, but the numerous painful procedures and surgeries led him into a deep depression which persisted through his teen years.  Stephen stopped physical and social activity, gained weight, and his blood pressure increased.  By the age of 20 he weighed 300 pounds.  His doctor told him he needed to make a change.

Inspired by athletes he saw while watching the CrossFit Games on television, Stephen began to make small changes which led to a cascade of events that helped him lose over 85 pounds.  In the process, he was able to lower his blood pressure, experience relief from his asthma symptoms, forge new relationships, and get in the best shape of his life.

I sat down with Stephen to learn more about what it’s like to deal with a scary medical diagnosis as a child and how he gained the tools he needed to make the transition from a sedentary lifestyle to a thriving one.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The health obstacles Stephen encountered at birth
  • His diagnosis with Gorlin syndrome at age 10
  • Stephen’s lapse into depression, weight gain, and high blood pressure
  • What one doctor said that triggered a turning point for Stephen
  • How he found CrossFit
  • How a Tough Mudder with friends cemented his desire to change his lifestyle
  • The steps Stephen took to start his fitness journey, and the changes he’s witnessed
  • What tools Stephen used to change his mindset from that of a victim to one of empowerment
  • How he overcomes days when he feels down or like he might fall back into old habits
  • His current health status
  • Advice he would give to others to help them through a low point in their lives
  • Three things Stephen does on a regular basis that has the biggest positive impact on his health
  • One thing he struggles to implement that could have a big impact on his health
  • What a healthy life looks like to Stephen

You can follow Stephen on Instagram.


Related episodes:

Ep 84 – Chasing Excellence with Ben Bergeron

Ep 75 – Growth Through Adversity with Kyle Maynard

Ep 69 – From “Obese to Beast” with John Glaude

Ep 46 – Living and Training with Type 1 Diabetes with Brendan Snyder

Ep 37 – Steph Hammerman on Overcoming Obstacles, Teaching CrossFit, and Crushing Cancer

If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #PursuingHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.

This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market. By cutting out the middle man, Thrive Market delivers your favorite healthy food and lifestyle products to your doorstep at 25-50% lower cost than you would spend in the grocery store. Visit http://www.thrivemarket.com/ph to receive an exclusive offer from Thrive Market for being a listener of Pursuing Health: 25% off your first order + a free 30 day trial!

This episode is also brought to you by Siete Foods. When Veronica Garza was facing a series of major health challenges as a teenager, her entire family of seven jumped on board to help. Together, they adopted a low-inflammation, grain free diet. As a Mexican-American family living in south Texas, they couldn’t imagine life without tortillas and it wasn’t long before Veronica came up with a delicious solution and Siete Foods was born. Visit www.sietefoods.com to try some of their delicious grain-free, dairy-free and paleo-friendly tortillas, tortilla chips, quesos, and hot sauces yourself and use code Julie19 for 10% off your order.

Disclaimer: This podcast is meant to share the experiences of various individuals. It does not provide medical advice, and it is not a substitute for advice from your physician or health care professional.

This post was originally published on March 5, 2019.

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