Kelly McLay, Global Marathoner Who Went Through Menopause at 24

 

Who are you?  

I am the CEO and Founder of Fitness International Travel, global marathoner, one of 49 women in the world who has completed 7 marathons, on 7 continents in 7 days, a wife, mom and someone who is passionate about life, chasing the impossible, and believing in that next finish line for all of us.  

At the end of the day I am the mom behind you buying the milk who maybe just got off a flight that flew around the world in 7 days. 

What’s your fertility/infertility story in a nutshell? 

I was diagnosed with POF (pre-mature ovarian failure) due to an auto-immune disorder in my endocrine system – specifically thyroid complications that shut down my ovaries.  This thrust me into early, full-blown menopause beginning at age 20.  I still manage physical and emotional aspects of this diagnosis/hormonal status.  At diagnosis, my body was well past the option for egg freezing and it wasn’t common technology at that time (2004),  so it was made very clear to me from day 1 if I wanted to ever be pregnant the only way was donor egg IVF.  

Why is it important that your story is represented in the story of infertility?

If people were to look at me today, you would not see any of the years of struggle.  The accomplishments I have achieved were grown from the emotional turmoil and pain I was going through with the shock of my diagnosis, the feeling of being 80 when I was 20, the pain of death of my fertile self and womanhood, and the struggles to navigate all the infertility and the path to be IN the FERTILITY process takes. 

As I continued to navigate my infertility struggles through my source of strength and confidence (running) I was often criticized; scrutinized.  Most often ignorant to the real story, many would judge that my running, especially as it was marathons, caused my infertility.  One woman went so far as to advise, from the back seat of the car I was driving, maybe it would be good to just stop running and eat a hamburger.  My response, I wish that was all it took.  I would eat all the hamburgers in the world.  As I ran through pregnancy and crossed another finish line while pregnant, I was still judged for my behavior “why would I risk my pregnancy”.  Despite support from my IVF and primary OBGYN to continue being myself with restrictions, another OBGYN stated, I do not agree with what you are doing…because THIS (circling my belly) is more important than THIS (circling my whole self).  

What people don’t understand is that I am my strongest, calmest, most ebb & flow of ying-yang self when I run…no matter how fast or how slow or how far or how short…like rocking a baby to sleep…that is my happy place.  

Or they see me holding my two littles, our world, and cannot see beyond the years it took to get close to this picture.  I think it just goes to show that everyone is dealing with something in the background – so do not judge a book by its cover. 

How did you meet your partner and what did you imagine your family building to look like?

Oh man…are you ready?  We met at my friend’s wedding in Atlanta…he was the best man and I was a bridesmaid…we are so cliche.  But I love it.  I was a super-hot mess bridesmaid and completely told him the full story of life with Kelly/future with Kelly that weekend– somehow I didn’t scare him away.  He was in Denver and I was in Boston at the time.  Our third date was a root canal (literally – I flew to Denver) and the rest is history.  

I think I told him right away as knowing he knew what he was getting into from the beginning.  This was me.  This was who I was.  In some ways we benefited as a couple as our family plans and future dreams were not blindsided by infertility.  Of course I was still navigating that process and now being with someone you love who you want to have your “own” (biological) children with – brought up some other difficult emotions.  We navigated donor selection and trusting other individuals.  From the onset we knew that family planning would involve others and science.  In the end, after considering the path of adoption or egg donation, while adoption is not fully ruled out, I wanted to see if I could carry the baby, so we chose donor egg IVF with an anonymous donor. 

What adjectives/words come to mind when I ask: What does infertility look like?  

Oh so many emotions….

resilience

enduring

marathon

just keep running

highest highs to lowest lows

raw, real

beautiful, honest, amazing, eye-opening

unbelievable

magic

im_possible

I think it is also important to note, or what I generally try to convey, is that while yes all of this is a very fragile undertaking that we women should not feel like we are walking on eggshells – that any little wrong move can result in a cause/effect – that we are not china.  Part of the reason I continued to be me is that some of this is out of my control and the best way forward was for me to continue to be as much myself as possible throughout the challenges and difficulties of the path ahead.   There was hope after hope and despair after despair.  Oftentimes I think that there is so much pressure on the process/the individual that there is a feeling of not doing anything “wrong.”  We are not delicate china – we are strong resilient individuals and so I continued to run – not in a cavalier manner, but in the “this is me strong manner” and it is important that women, and men, do not lose themselves in this journey. 


pregnantish
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pregnantish


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