LPGA Golfer Stacy Lewis and the Power of Resilience
As a Cambia-sponsored athlete on the LPGA tour Stacy Lewis doesn’t hide her determination to win. Recently she sat down with Cambia and shared more about her life on and off the course and why motherhood, her family’s health and staying at the top of her game is a non-negotiable.
You're an accomplished LPGA athlete but also a huge part of your life is being a mom. You recently penned a letter for your daughter Chesnee on ESPNW. You wrote about embracing adversity, turning that into a positive. Can you share a little bit more about how resilience plays a role for you as an athlete and a mom?
I think with everything I've been through in my life, it's who I am. I don't know any different. I'm better when my back is against the wall and things don't go right. I seem to be more comfortable there. I just think it's a part of me growing up with all my back issues and dealing with everything came along with them. I hope my daughter is the same way. I hope she doesn't have to learn the way I did.
Motherhood changes the perspective of what a bad shot is or what a bad round is. I forget about golf the second I pick up my daughter Chesnee.
The whole point of that letter was for her to read that when she's older and maybe think, “My mom was pretty cool.” You have aspirations of what you want your kids to be like and being resilient is one thing I hope she is.
Have you thought about when you might share that letter with Chesnee?
I want her to be able to read it for herself. Maybe when she's older. I think when she's older she'll appreciate it a little more.
You’ve shared in the past about your experience with childhood scoliosis and how you wore a back brace 24/7 for seven years. What was that like at such a young age?
It was only supposed to be for two or three years. But I ended up wearing the back brace the longest of any patient my doctor has ever had -- to this day. The resiliency comes from going to the doctor every three or four months and, you know, after two or three years you're kind of thinking okay, this is the appointment that I get to stop wearing it. And he's saying, "Three more months. Six more months." We did that for three or four years. If you don't get resilient from doing that I don't know what will do it for you. It was disappointing. I mean, it was constant disappointment of "No, it's not the time. No, it's not time." You try to find positives in things and my mom was amazing through the whole process.
The way scoliosis is, it's genetic, but they don't really know why or where it comes from exactly, but they do know it's genetic. That's all they know about it and girls tend to have it more than boys and so I was apprehensive about having kids because I don't want them to have to go through what I went through. I just, I pray every day that Chesnee doesn't have to go through what I went through.
That's powerful. You mentioned your mom being a huge support. Did you learn anything from your mom and the way she walked that health care journey with you?
Absolutely. I just think my mom was just so matter-of-fact about things. It's like, "We're going to do what the doctor says and that's it. You're going to wear the brace." There was no, "It hurts. It's okay. You can take it off." It was, "No, this is what we're supposed to do, and this is what we're going to do." I think I'm going to be that way with Chesnee and my mom was great at that. We did everything right. We did everything we were supposed to do and it didn't work out but that's okay.
In that moment I thought golf, I thought sports, I thought everything I wanted to do was over. I thought physically there was no way I was ever going to be able to play golf or ride my bike with my friends. I thought everything was done.
My mom was a great support system, doing research and finding the best doctors and all that kind of stuff. I just couldn't imagine looking back and now being a parent, what they went through with me in that process. I just, I couldn't even imagine.
Thank you for sharing that. That's powerful. I'm sure you loved golf even at that age. You were obviously showing a knack for it and still practicing. Was there a point where you thought, "My dream might not happen?"
To back up a little bit – I got out of the brace and it was October of my senior year of high school. I thought I was done with all this back stuff, we weren't going to have to worry about it anymore. Then, we go back to the doctor in February and my back had gotten worse. So that was when he told us that, "Okay, you're going to have to have surgery." In that moment I thought golf, I thought sports, I mean I thought everything I wanted to do was done at that point. You know, I thought physically there was no way I was ever going to be able to play golf or ride my bike with my friends. I mean, I just thought everything was done.
My doctor, he assured us, "No, she'll be able to play. She'll be fine." That whole appointment, I cried the whole way home. I didn't say a word to my mom. I think my mom was crying. For me that was the worst day. That's when I thought everything I wanted to do was done at that point. But my doctor was amazing through the whole process. He said, "No, you're going to be able to play. You're going to be fine." He was right. It just took a long time to get to that point, but he was right.
Did you ever have any contact with that doctor after you had made it pro?
He texts me all the time and checks on how I'm doing. When I play well he sends me, "Good job," and stuff like that. I know he shares my story with almost every patient that walks in the door. I know I've been a great asset for him and just kind of encouraging kids that I don't even know and I've never even met. He's been a great source. If something is hurting, feeling kind of funky, I can ask him, "Hey, is this normal?" He encouraged us through the whole process of getting back to playing. He's said "You just got to trust it. You just got to let it go." You know? It was hard to swing down through a shot again and he was great through the whole thing.
Is he based in Houston, your hometown?
He is. He lives here in Houston.
You mentioned your mom was a great support system for you during your health care journey. At Cambia we say that moms and women are the health care CEO of the family, in that they manage all the health care needs of the children and their spouses. How do you relate to that and what kind of advice would you give to other women who are trying to navigate this for their families?
Well, for us our health care comes out of my husband's job but at the same time, you know, I'm the one that's running things. I'm the one that's taking Chesnee to doctor's appointments and doing all that kind of stuff. I always saw my mom doing that stuff, but I never really kind of realized it until I was doing it myself. We wear a lot of different hats.
If I'm not healthy and I'm not taking care of myself then I can't be the best for my family. It's easy to do, but probably the most important thing is to take care of yourself.
I think I've done a pretty good job so far. I know it's something I need to keep track of in the future, as life gets busy. I just think every day I've got a list of stuff I need to do and it is usually Chesnee and my husband at the top of that list and you kind of forget about yourself. It's important to, you know, there are times when Chesnee was super little, and I was feeding her, and trying to do all this stuff, and then it's like no, I need to eat. I need to have lunch. I need to do this stuff and take care of myself.
How important is it for moms to prioritize their health as well?
It's important, because if I'm not healthy and I'm not taking care of myself then I can't be the best for my family. It's easy to do, but probably the most important thing is to take care of yourself.
The whole daycare is amazing. They have three full time people now. They did have two but with the baby boom they've had lately, they hired a third. They treat Chesnee like she's their daughter and that's the best part. When they're not going to see Chesnee for a month, you can tell they're upset. You can tell they're going to miss her and that's the amazing part for me is just how much they really do care about her. That’s their whole goal – to make the whole thing easy for me, and they more than do that. I mean, the daycare is amazing. I couldn't do what I do leaving Chesnee at home. There's no way.
Around 11 of the golfers had children right around the same time as you. Has that helped a little bit, to be able to discuss that with your peers and get advice and know that you're going through it with some other women?
It's been great. You know, Gerina, she had a boy who’s about six months older than Chesnee and she's had to kind of do things first. I've been learning from her and asking, "Hey, what did you do here? What did you do at this age when you're traveling?" Just kind of trying to figure those things out. Plus, the kids have somebody to play with. Chesnee and AJ are like best buds, you know? They play together all the time and it’s fun when your friends are going through the same thing together. You really couldn't script it any better to be honest, on both sides.
How is it being a mom to Chesnee and now being a working mom? How has that changed your perspective on not only your career, but your life?
It has completely changed my life in every aspect. You're so busy. It's just nonstop. Even when I come home from the golf course, it's running around trying to get everything done. It's getting stuff ready for the next day. It changes the perspective of what a bad shot is or what a bad round is. I forget about golf the second I pick up Chesnee. There is no thought about golf until I think, "What do I need to do to get ready for tomorrow." I think it's maybe calmed me down and chilled me out a little bit. Things don't seem to bother me like they did and it's hard to even think of what life was like before her.
Based on your experience, do you have any advice for women who are thinking about becoming a mom? What would you say to them if they're thinking, "I want a child, but I don't know if I have time?”
I would say it's hard. I'm not going to lie. It's hard, but having Chesnee is the most amazing thing. It’s just the little smiles and the things they learn every day and when she started calling me momma. It’s so worth everything, every sacrifice, and everything you do to see this little thing grow up and to really become a family. It's just, it's amazing. I want to do it again and I would do it all over again.
I've talked to some other golfers about it. There’s never going to be a perfect time to do it. It's just one of those things you've got to do it and you'll figure it out as you go and that's what we've done so far.
Is Chesnee coming with you to Cambia Portland Classic in just a couple weeks?
She is and it will be her first time in Portland. She's been on 32 flights already. I'm keeping track of number of flights, miles, and like all the cities and places that she goes in her first year.
We cannot wait to have you back. In 2017 you donated your $195,000 earnings to the Hurricane Harvey Houston relief effort. How do you feel about coming back to the Cambia Portland Classic?
I haven't been back to the tournament since I won. It feels like I'm going to defend -- I’m looking forward to getting back to that.
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