How this woman overcame 2 strokes at 29, ran half-marathon 10 months later

Dina Pestonji published a book about her struggles to inspire other women.

A Toronto woman has written a book about her struggles with an eating disorder, recovering from a car crash and two strokes, hoping her challenges will inspire other women.

Despite having plenty of love and affection from her family, Dina Pestonji, now 35, still felt different from other girls with “pale skin and blue eyes,” according to her book, Surviving Myself.

The book explores her ensuing decade-long battle with anorexia, a near-fatal car crash and a pair of strokes that nearly crippled her. Pestonji has gone on to give two TEDx talks and is now a motivational speaker.

Pestonji says she did not talk about her issues as a child, in part, because of her Indian heritage.

“You brush it under the rug and move on,” she told CBC’s Our Toronto. “I never really took the time to heal.”

dina-pestonjiDespite graduating from the University of Toronto and later earning her master’s degree at ESCP Europe Business School, as well as successfully working in the financial sector, it wasn’t until she suffered two strokes at the age of 29 and wrote about it that her worldview started to change.

2 strokes
In late 2012, Pestonji was hospitalized after she started slurring her speech, and got severe headaches and shooting pains along her entire body.

Doctors found a mass in her brain. She was in hospital for a week undergoing tests, but the physicians could not pinpoint what was wrong. Pestonji was sent home with medication.

The next day, the first day of her new job, she was hospitalized again.

“My parents didn’t know when I would wake up,” she said. “I had to have emergency brain surgery.”

When Pestonji eventually awoke, she had lost her speech and ability to function on her right side.

“It was a month or two after when saw myself in the mirror and I remembered I had a job, a condo, everything,” she said.

“I had lost all that. That point was the worst day of my life. I’m literally starting from scratch and I need to learn the alphabet.”

Half marathon
When asked how she went from learning the alphabet and how to walk again to running a half marathon merely 10 months later, Pestonji is humble.

“I needed to be myself again and show myself I could do it,” she said.

“It was just me proving to myself I’m the same person. I had to have something to say at the end of it.”

She credits having a loving family and friends and a team of physical therapists who pushed her.

“I was lucky to have a supportive team. I’ve never thought anything I’ve ever done is really remarkable,” she said.

“I was given a circumstance and my body and mind worked together. I’ve learned to love myself and be kind to myself which I never was before.

“I was always going after goals and goals and goals. I never took the time to stop and reflect and be thankful for what I’ve been able to accomplish. Hopefully, that inspires other women and girls to do the same.”

Published on CBC