Hi, my name is Sumbul Zafar and this is my dystonia story.
In the fall of 2013 I suffered a silent stroke, which left me with residual symptoms that affected my daily life. The doctors and specialists could not find a logical reason why someone with my health and age would suffer such a thing. I overcame many of the challenges from a stroke and maintained my swimming ambitions, however, not all of me was healing. I began to have difficulty speaking, and swallowing and my neck would twist involuntarily, my face would twitch and pull at random, and I was in immense pain.
I was swimming as part of the Oshawa aquatic masters swim team at the time and as I was preparing for FINA World Masters in Montreal, my symptoms took a turn for the worst, and I was not able to compete in the meet.
After a year of seeing countless specialists, in the spring of 2014 I was diagnosed with hemi-facical spasms and in the fall of 2014 I was diagnosed with cervical dystonia. Dystonia is a neuromuscular movement disorder that causes muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily. I was devastated with this diagnosis.
I returned to the pool with the hopes that I would be able to continue swimming with my team, however, I was not receiving proper treatments and my symptoms progressed I had to make a decision that hurt just as much as the diagnosis…I hung up my goggles. I wanted to focus on building my wellness team so that when I did return to the pool, I would be able to understand my new body and the way it would move on land and in the water.
After 2 years of researching doctors, physiotherapist, massage therapists, and naturopaths I was able to build my wellness team. With their help and with my own knowledge of holistic nutrition, I was able to receive quality treatments and manage my dystonia well enough to begin swimming again.
Being thankful that I can still do something I love and not knowing if progression will take it away from, I want to use this time to inspire others around me.