DETROIT - With so much at stake, Kelly Stafford was fearful of what her future might hold.
Kelly, wife of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, had a 12-hour surgical procedure in April to remove a benign brain tumor called acoustic neuroma. The duration of the procedure, initially planned to last six hours at University of Michigan Hospital, doubled because of complications the doctors encountered during surgery.
Her recovery has been steady and after initially being limited to barely walking, she is getting back to normal, including some kickboxing and rigorous activities.
"I'm relearning how to walk again," Kelly told WDIV's Hank Winchester. "Your brain just gets tired."
Kelly's condition impacted her hearing and balance and Dr. Gregory Thompson, who performed the procedure, said there was no more than a 50-percent chance that Kelly would retain her hearing after the surgery.
Kelly said that at one point, she was holding their newborn, Hunter, when she felt herself falling and almost had to throw the baby to Matthew to avoid an injury.
The surgery was successful and after the initial shock of learning about the non-cancerous brain tumor, the Staffords had to learn more about the next steps. Kelly and Matthew have been married since 2015 and have three daughters.
"I remember sitting down with (the doctors) in the waiting room and just losing it, just thinking about our girls and everything I've known," Kelly told Winchester. "I also remember looking around in that waiting room at all the other people sitting there, waiting to give up and reminding myself that people go through this every day."
Although there were some symptoms, including loss of balance and difficulty hearing, there wasn't an indication that the diagnosis would be a brain tumor. When the results were revealed, it came as a complete surprise.
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"We sat down, (the physician) pulled out the MRI and said, 'Here's your brain tumor,'" Kelly said, "and immediately Matthew and I both ... had no idea."
In the aftermath of the surgery, Matthew was by Kelly's side in her recovery.
Though it was his offseason from football, he was impacted as much as Kelly in the fight of her life.
"I remember being there night 1 and seeing her trying to sit up and she was completely wobbly," Matthew said. "She's an incredible role model to our girls and a bunch of girls out there. I'm really proud of her.
"It was tough. I wasn't the person directly going through it, and I can't imagine being in her shoes."
Said Kelly: "He never left my side. When I say I couldn't do anything, he had to be by my side at every moment."
The ordeal has brought a new perspective to both Kelly and Matthew, giving new light to the folks who go through the same symptoms and treatments every day. It's been a revelation to Kelly and she's bringing more attention to those who need it.
"I told Matthew that I think about those people who go through this and don't have the privileges we have," she said. "They're rock stars."
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