Kelly Stafford, wife of NFL star Matt Stafford, opens up about brain tumor recovery

One day in January, the room started spinning for Kelly Stafford. It turned out to be the beginning of an ordeal that led to a 12-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor.

The wife of Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and mother of three opened up to NBC Detroit affiliate WDIV about her grueling recovery from surgery in April to remove a benign brain tumor.

"I'm relearning how to move again,'' she said. "I push myself. I try. It's really because I have a great support when I come home."

Kelly, 36, felt something was wrong when she experienced multiple instances of vertigo beginning in January.

Kelly Stafford with her family
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Kelly Stafford with her family
Just a dad and his tiny girl gang. Happy Father’s Day to this guy and every pops out there!
This makes my heart so happy. @buffalobills are in town and that means so is my brother!! Missing you @rosehall__ ❤️ #uncC
4th of july looks a whole lot different now.. not gonna lie, I miss the boat party.. I can have fun with my girls and then do the boat party right? To all of the people out there who are a part of the Hall’s annual 4th of july bash.. lemme know what you think about me getting a hold of the boat for next year..
Im so beyond grateful to be a part of this family. They have been far more than just supportive through this entire journey that matthew, the girls, and I have been through the past 6 months. From Mrs. Ford, to the coaches, to the front office.. I truly believe there is no better organization to be a part of and I’m thankful we have had the opportunity to be a part of it the last ten years and looking forward to continuing our journey with this team. Thank you @detroitlionsnfl for the donation to the Acoustic Neuroma Association. It was such a surprise and I’m truly so appreciative of it! #footballisfamily #anwarrior #staffordstrong
This is a quick thank you to everyone we saw yesterday at Arts, Beats, and Eats. We were a little skeptical about going because of the amount of people at this festival, but I’m so glad we did. People were amazing. Everyone was so respectable and understanding of us trying to spend family time before the season picks up. We didn’t have one issue.. people just wishing Matthew luck as we passed by, which he is so appreciative of. So to everyone we saw, thank you guys so much. We had an amazing day with our kids and enjoyed our time out and about in michigan on this beautiful Labor Day weekend. #puremichigan
Last weekend before the season starts.. spending it the perfect way.. together. #girldad #staffordstrong #ArtsBeatsAndEats Side note: I find Matthew very sexy with that baby carrier on. 🤷🏼‍♀️
And your sisters love you... and your cake.
It’s hard to put into words this offseason. The hardest one we have ever had for obvious reasons, both healing from so much. I’ve never been happier to say goodbye to an off-season. It’s usually a sad moment watching Matthew pull away.. knowing there is no more family breakfasts, no more beer chugs, no more weekend dates..for 6-7 months.. but this time it was different. I was grateful to be here and feeling so ready to move on and leave this offseason in the past.. only taking with us the lessons and strength we gained from it. We grew as individuals, as a couple, and as parents going through what we went through so I wouldn’t change it for the world.. but I know I speak for both of us when I say we are very ready for football. So here is to season 11.. Lets fucking get it! #staffordstrong #golions
One last quick getaway before my husband heads back to work. The OC Fair was just what we needed.. rides, fair food, and lots of beer. Was trying not to pull a sandlot, especially when my brain makes a ride seem way more intense than it might be. Happy to report, I didn’t and neither did Matthew. This offseason has been one for the books in so many ways.. I’m thankful and I’m soaking up these last few days with Matthew. #family #staffordstrong Missing our girls, but my family and our tata are holding down the fort at home! ❤️ Ps: sorry for breaking your ears with my voice
It’s been two months since the scariest day of my life. Im gonna keep it short and just thank you again for all the prayers. I am doing amazing. There are things that will never be the same, but they are things that with each day, I notice less and less. My new norms are now..just my norms. So thank you again. I am getting back to my life and enjoying my husband’s offseason with him, our little ones and my entire family here in Atlanta. Thank you. #acousticneuromawarrior #staffordstrong #cupscrew
I’d be lying if I told you it was easy to show you these photos. Here is the reality. This was me a few weeks before my surgery..these pics go back and forth from before the surgery to me at the wedding two weeks ago. I have weakness on my right side.. might look slight to others, but it’s very noticeable to me. I have to wait 6 -12 months to know whether this will be permanent or not. This is a VERY GOOD result from surgery.. it’s just a “slight difference” in a face you’ve been staring at for 29 years can be a big difference to you. I wish I could tell you it didn’t bother me, that I haven’t cried about it.. But I want to be transparent and truthful about this entire process, the good and the bad.. and to be honest I’m extremely, EXTREMELY insecure about this. I see it in my eyes and in my smile. Every time I laugh I cover my mouth because that’s when it’s most noticeable.. that’s when I’m most vulnerable. Although the difference is slight, it changed my smile. I feel the weakness when I pucker to kiss my husband and when I try to make kissy noises to my girls. My right eye doesn’t close all the way and therefore, I have learned how irritating a dry eye can be and how important it is to carry eye drops in every purse.. If this is permanent, i know eventually I will be ok with it. I may sound superficial with this post and dont get me wrong, I am so grateful that I am here and healing.. but I want to be upfront and honest. For anyone going through any type of facial weakness, just know you are not alone and if I find anything that helps, I will for sure share. *On another note, my balance is improving every day and my good days are greatly outnumbering my bad. Im getting back into my routine and it feels so good. I’m beyond thankful for that and in the end, I know getting back to myself on the inside is all that really matters.
A big goal of mine after surgery was to make it to our close friends @davidkoonin and @jereed39 wedding. These people mean so much to me and I really didn’t want to miss it. Although I’m struggling after the weekend, I would have it no other way.. It was completely and totally worth it. I got to witness them exchange vows in a beautiful, joint religion, ceremony and then celebrate all night long. Jessica was absolutely stunning and Koonin looked as happy as I have ever seen him..Congrats to y’all @davidkoonin @jereed39! Love y’all so much!
If I look extremely exhausted, it’s because I was. I barely slept the night before. This picture was taken right after the surgeon came and marked “yes” on the the right side of my head, behind my ear, to know what side he would be cutting open. That’s when it became real. That’s when it became so scary I began to tear up and shake a little. Then I looked at Matthew. He had been my rock through this entire thing and he was so calm.. and it calmed me. The night before, I wrote him and all three of my girls letters, just letting them know how much I love them. I gave them to my mom to give to him after I went into surgery. Maybe a little overkill, but hell, it was brain surgery and it was completely terrifying.. so I didn’t want to take any chances. But here I am. Healthy and alive and beyond grateful for every day.. Enjoying my husband and family and getting used to my new norms. I realized I really don’t like riding in cars, especially in the back seat.. a perfect excuse to always have shotgun. I don’t love loud, busy restaurants as much as I used to and I also struggle in areas with a lot of moving people (malls, airports, etc). I will wear heels, but with caution for me and everyone around me. I have become used to telling people I’m slightly “hard of hearing” and I’ll give you a hug, but be aware I might take you down with me if you’re not completely still while doing so. I realized dancing with my girls (shaking my booty and all) might take a few more months and I’m sure everyone is ok with that, Matthew included 😂 And although not expected, but pleasantly surprising, I still love my head rubbed/massaged. And this man does it every. Single. Night. Thank you Matthew. Thank you for taking care of me and our family and always putting us first. Thank you for always being my rock and keeping me at ease during the toughest time of my life. Im lucky to know you and the man you are.. but mostly, I’m lucky you chose me to do life with. Thank you. #tbt 🤷🏼‍♀️ #braintumorawarenessmonth #anwarrior #StaffordStrong
Can’t sleep. Sitting here, listening to these hospital beeps, wide eyed... and I’m MISSING my people. I’ve seen them once since surgery and it was hard. I was so excited to see them, but the amount of energy it took to even just yell out their names with excitement, was too much energy. I can’t pick them up, they can’t climb on me, we can’t go on adventures, but what’s worse is I can’t be the mom I want to be for them right now.. Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally.. and I am really having a hard time trying to figure out how much to push myself right now to get back for them.. really to get back to myself, so I can get back to them. I thought this would be like every other surgery I had.. no idea why the hell I thought that. You have a couple tough days and then you turn the corner. Mind over matter..Well this is mind over mind and honestly I’m terrible at this.. so if you have any advice, please, please don’t hesitate to share. (Might wanna take advantage because when I’m back feeling good and you try to give me advice on something I don’t want advice on.. you might get a little slap back 😜) Serious side note: my prayers are to anyone fighting something medical and out of their control right now. There are things far, far, far worse than I am going through and the people getting through their everyday life while battling through those things.. y’all are true heroes, all my prayers are with y’all. Gonna try and get some rest.
Nope, daddy won’t mind if yall use his old school as a slide... 🤷🏼‍♀️ #chandlerandsawyerstAfford #whendaddysawaythegirlswillplay
Being the #1 man in four girls’ lives can be exhausting.. but you make it look easy and I’m so grateful for that!!
Tbt... my “9 months out” with these two! To think my back hurt carrying them when they were 5.5 lbs in my belly... @staffordsistersquad said “hold my beer mom.. try carrying all three of us now..” 65-70 lbs 😳 why I can’t lift weights anymore 🙄
Another Christmas in the books. Planning to sleep until the New Year.. if @staffordsistersquad will let me. ✌🏻
Just a little Christmas preview on this beautiful Sunday. #hunterhopestafford
When they tell you you’ll be playing the role of “tree” for the Christmas play... cutest little Christmas trees I’ve ever seen! #chandlerandsawyerstafford #firstperformance @staffordsistersquad
Super thankful.
Meanwhile back home..This little one 😍😍 missing her already! #hunterhopestafford
This is how our trip to Atlanta began.. after chandler sat on sawyer’s head and sawyer started screaming.. I thought well this is a great start. There were definitely moments, but we made it. It was a great learning experience.. I learned that next time I’ll be flying my mom up to fly back with us. Missing my sweet Hunter already. #chandlerandsawyerstafford
Took all three girls to the game yesterday.. they loved it. I don’t have the heart to tell them they won’t be going again because they are clearly bad luck. #cupcakeandsprinklesandhoneybuns #chandlerandsawyerstafford #hunterhopestafford #911 #ONEPRIDE #obviouslyimkidding #maybe #somanyboogiewipes
The only time the older two aren’t screaming during bath time.. life of the @staffordsistersquad #ilovethemsomuchthough #mommyslittlehelpers #cupcakeandsprinklesandhoneybuns
Monday mood. 😴😴😴 #hunterhopestafford #honeybuns
Just want to say a quick thank you to @design_dujour for making this dream nursery for baby hunter! It is exactly what I wanted and Sam did it in less than 4 weeks! #hunterhopestafford #nurserydesign @design_dujour
I’m not the only one beyond ready to have Matthew home. #needourman #daddysgirls #pregnantAF
My ❤️. I love how they are always finding a way to comfort one another.. whether it’s a hand hold or hug. ☺️ Shoe cred: @sryan03 @giuseppezanotti #chandlerandsawyerstafford #cupcakeandsprinkles #bettershoegamethantheirparents #guiseppezanotti
First day of summer school/camp! My mood went from happy to sad.. @cupcakeandsprinklesstafford mood went from sad to ✌🏻 out mom. #biggirls #cupcakeandsprinkles #chandlerandsawyerstafford 😩😩

"The room just kind of started spinning on me,'' she said. "I was holding our newborn at that point, and I kind of just like almost threw her to Matthew because I felt myself going down.

"I thought it was time to go at least get her looked at and see if it vertigo,'' Matt Stafford told the station.

An MRI of her brain revealed that she had a benign brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma that was sitting on some of her cranial nerves. Despite being benign, the tumor is still known to cause hearing loss and facial paralysis.

"I don't know if this doctor didn't know that I didn't know, she pulls up my MRI and goes, 'Well, here is your brain tumor,''' she said. "We had no idea."

Doctors decided to quickly operate, resulting in a surgery on April 17 that lasted 12 hours.

"I remember sitting down with them in the waiting room and just losing it,'' Kelly said.

Matt was in the waiting room receiving sporadic updates via text message during the surgery.

"They couldn't go, 'Here's three paragraphs of what's happening,''' Matt said. "It was kind of like 'ran into a hurdle, expect the surgery to go two hours longer than expected.'''

An inspiring video showed Kelly walking just a day after the surgery.

"He never left my side,'' she said. "I mean when I say I couldn't do anything. He had to be by my side at every moment."

The support of the couple's three young daughters has also helped Kelly in her recovery.

"Kids are great in the sense that you can't dwell on things,'' she said. "They make you get up. They make you keep going."

Kelly has had to diligently work to recover her mobility. She wrote in an Instagram post on April 26 that the surgery "wiped out the entire balance system on my right side."

However, in the four months since the surgery, she has gone from just learning how to move again to getting in the gym and boxing.

"She's an incredible role model to our girls,'' Matt said. "I'm just really proud of her."

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