Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"You haven't seen the last of me!"

Hello, my name is Shala Singer. I would like to share with you some of my struggles that I feel have made me much stronger. If you are going through tough times, keep your head up and keep going. "This too shall pass".

I won my pro card in 2010 at the Team Universe, Figure class A. What a dream come true!! I will never forget that feeling. It was truly one of those indescribable moments that literally took my breath away.

I went on to compete in two pro shows. The first was the Border States in California and then I finished up the year at the Kentucky Muscle. Kentucky was pretty special to me because only one year earlier I was on that same stage as an amateur winning my class in only my second show ever. I had been on a mission to earn my pro card and as many of you do on a daily basis, I ate slept and breathed FIGURE! It was my LIFE.

That all changed on July 23, 2011. My husband and I went out to eat for my weekly "cheat meal" and then came home to watch a movie. You know, the typical wild Saturday night of a figure competitor, lol. When we got home I started having really bad abdominal pains. I took some Tums and tried to lay down but it just kept getting worse. By 3am I was in tears and my husband knew it was time to go to the ER.

I couldn't even stand up when I arrived so they put me in a wheel chair and took me straight to the examination room. After a series of scans and x rays, they admitted me for an abdominal blockage. My stomach was so distended and painful that they inserted an NG (nasogastric) tube. This is a tube they insert through your nose that goes down into your stomach to remove fluids and gas. It was pretty unpleasant. I was kept in the hospital for 4 days. During this time not only were they sucking stuff out of my stomach with this tube, they were also using it to pump in this nasty stuff called "Go Lightly". Now, if you have ever had a colonoscopy you know what that is and I am going to skip the description. Let's just say that "Go Lightly" is NOT a good name for it. Anyway, I had not eaten since Saturday night at dinner and was getting weaker by the day. I was sent home Thursday morning and told to keep drinking the "GL" and stay on a liquid diet until the following Monday when I was scheduled for my colonoscopy. I was still having the severe pains but they basically told me to go home and "go to the bathroom". After 4 days in the hospital, this was their only diagnosis. Well, needless to say I ended up severely dehydrated and back in the hospital that Saturday night. When I arrived they needed to get the fluids and potassium into my system so quickly that they used a 16g needle. I am a pretty small person and usually need pediatric needles.

The colonoscopy turned out normal. That would have been great news however I still had the severe pain and there didn't seem to be any explanation. My husband and parents decided to take me to Indianapolis to see a different GI doctor and get a second opinion. At this point I was down to 95lbs and could not eat solid food. They were starting to get extremely worried, as was I. The new GI decided it was my gallbladder (even though the test was inconclusive) so on September 9th I had my gallbladder removed. I was sent home that same day after surgery and when I woke up the next day I was terrified when I awoke to the same pain I had been experiencing for the past 2 months. My mom reminded me that the nurse had told us it may take a week or so to really be able to tell a difference so I stayed optimistic and prayed everyday that the gallbladder really had been the cause of this nightmare. A week later I went in for my post op check with my GI, he was surprised to see that I was still in so much pain and that my stomach seemed to still be distended. I was sent over to the hospital for an x-ray. After the scan I went to the lobby to wait for them to tell me that it was ok to go home. The x ray technician came out and told me that the radiologist wanted me to go to the ER immediately. That night I underwent an emergency abdominal surgery. When I woke up I had a drain coming out the side of me and I was informed that they had to take out my appendix and that my infection was so bad I would need to be in the hospital on IV antibiotics for the next 10 days. That 10 days were some of the scariest of my life.

While I was there I don't think I was alone for even 1 minute. My family was so supportive, they never left my side. The girl in the room next to me was not as lucky. She had been there for 3 weeks and was all alone. She was facing a surgery that they were not even sure she would make it through, but she was one of the most upbeat and positive people I have ever met. Every time I passed her on our daily hall walks, she was always so concerned about me. She told me I was like a little angel and I made her smile. All that she was going through and she was worried about me. I will never forget her.

After 10 days I was released to go home. When I left the hospital I weighed 85lbs. I was put on a puree only diet for the next month. At first I was so depressed and had a "poor me" attitude. When I looked in the mirror I did not even recognize myself. The muscle that I had worked so hard to gain had now become legs and arms that looked like toothpicks.

After about a week I decided to snap out of it. I was blessed with a second chance. I pulled through these surgeries and even if my food had to be blended I was still able to eat and I could still make healthy choices. My mom bought me a baby bullet and I started to make my egg whites, oats , sweet potatoes, green beans and chicken all in the form of baby food. I started to see my nightmare as a blessing. Up until this point I had definitely been guilty of taking my health and the ability to train how I wanted for granted. Along with not always being as grateful and caring to my family as I should be.

This experience was like a HUGE slap in the face for me. Even though the exact cause of all of this was never identified I do believe everything happens for a reason and God used this to really wake me up. I t has helped me see things differently not only with my training but with my family, friends and life in general. I feel so very blessed that I have made a full 100% recovery. Besides a few battle wounds (scars) I am as good as new. At first I thought I would be self conscious about my scars, especially since in figure EVERYTHING is seen, however I now look at them and am reminded of what I went through and how strong I am for coming out of it.

You haven't seen the last of me and I am looking forward to sharing my journey back with you! Thanks so much for reading :)

Shala Singer
IFBB Figure Pro

Editor's Note

There's no clever way to start my commentary, all I can say is "I love you" to Shala, as well as her husband and her family - I love you all. I love Shala for having a heart of steel, for not giving up, for taking the time to share her journey (which continues as we speak). I want to thank her for her candor, for talking to us about how blessed she was, about introducing us to the girl in the next room - whom I'm sure was genuinely touched to have known Shala.

I want to express love for her husband, who helped her up until the point she sent me this work. He proofread it for her and I'm sure (as you can read from her own words), that without him by her side, this journey would have been much, much harder to undertake.

And to Shala's family. How many families would be by your side to get through something like this -- only to ultimately try to get you off the stage, out of the gym, and far from your dreams? To have a family that's got your back is truly a blessing, and I'd bet my life's savings, that Shala's family wants to see this IFBB Pro go back and kick some butt -- if kickin butt is what's in her heart.

People don't often express love for others - especially not for strangers, but Shala did something very valid here, she did one thing which most champions never would. She shared with us - perhaps - her weakest, most fragile moment, and she's given us a real look at the fight that lays ahead. I HAVE NO DOUBT WE HAVEN'T SEEN THE LAST OF HER!! THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR YOUR COURAGE AND FOR SHARING YOUR STORY HERE! THERE'S NO FONT SIZE AVAILABLE THAT COULD EVEN BEGIN TO CHART HOW WONDERFUL YOU, YOUR HUSBAND, AND YOUR FAMILY ALL ARE! :)


  1. Does anyone have Shala's email address?

  2. Check your email Gail.

    All the Best,

    Christian Duque