My Story of Overtraining Syndrome, Part 4: A Rare Fungal Infection & Surgery

In part 4, Summer N. Sides shares her health situation, including depression and surgery for a rare fungal infection, after years of dealing with overtraining syndrome.

This final post from 2015 wasn’t originally intended to be part of my story of overtraining syndrome, however, in reflecting back on it today (2019), it needs to be part of the story. While this doesn’t specifically discuss overtraining syndrome, my health condition and subsequent surgery were the direct result of the beating I gave to my body in 2014 and 2015. I fully embrace the fact I may never have been in this situation if it weren’t for the fact that my body truly gave out on me.

If you haven’t go back and read part 1, part 2, and part 3 BEFORE you dive into this editorial. They will give you a solid background on where I was by this point in July 2015. Again, it’s important for me to note that by this point in 2015 I had overcome much of my major depression, but was still struggling with identity issues and truly knowing my place in the fitness space. It was a very tough time for me both personally and professionally. I feel the raw emotions from that stage of life shine through in this article – which may make it tough to read for anyone experiencing the same situation.

While I never became suicidal, I was majorly depressed. These days I am a strong mental health advocate, so before diving into the article, it’s important for me to share this reminder. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

Part 4 of 4 | Originally published July 2015

For those that know me know it takes a lot to break through my walls.  I am a pretty private person in terms of really talking about my personal life and major things going on.  I just don’t really feel it is much of your business, or honestly that most people really care about my life. I may post on my personal Facebook wall if I am not feeling well, or put out there that I have something done, but I have never really gone into much detail with anything. However, for some reason as I lay awake on the eve of my surgery tomorrow, I am compelled to say something…for the first time to really ask for thoughts and prayers as I go in tomorrow.

I’ve been sick…

The long long long story short is that for the past year I have been pretty sick.  I have been in and out of doctors offices and tried every different treatment remedy under the sun.  But no one could find an answer or a solution that worked.

I was having really bad stomach issues and headaches that have progressively gotten worse and worse. I went from getting migraines once a year, to getting them 1-2x a month, to 1-2x/wk. These are not just typical migraines and headaches. They are causing me to be light sensitive, have blurred vision, see the world in a wonderful spinning circle, and making me lose my ability to speak and do normal functioning things. It causes me to pass out and the only way to make it stop is to sleep.

I’ve been lucky that there have only been 4 instances where I was either driving or teaching a class/with a client when I wasn’t able to get home before it really set in. On these occasions I have been grateful for my awesome husband who has come and picked me up. I have done my best to not let my friends, family, clients, and participants see me when I get to that state…because it’s pretty scary.

A Trip to the Emergency Room

When I showed up in the emergency room 4 wks ago spitting up blood they discovered through an MRI/CT-scan a pool of blood sitting in the middle of my head, caused by what they are saying right now is a fungal infection in my sinuses. This pool of blood is sitting in my sphenoid sinus that is right next to my brain. What they think is that the pressure from the blood/gunk is pressing into my brain and causing these “complex migraines”. The only way to remove it is through surgery. However, he can’t guarantee that the surgery will remove it all and he can’t guarantee that it will make me better. When asked what the recovery will be all he could tell me was “I will know once I get inside and see it.” I may have to go back and continue to get it flushed out for weeks after the surgery, and there is a high probability that it will return.

Today I was lucky enough to see a optoneurologist who checked out all my fields of vision and my eyes and said everything was working fine in terms of my eyes. I just have really low tear production due to medications I have been on for the headaches.  So hopefully all the blurred vision and spinning will be fixed once this pool of gunk is out of my head.


I went in 10 days ago to knee surgery with 100% confidence that the doc would find the problem and fix me up. I knew he would limit activity, but I know that within 6-weeks I will be back to my normal self in that regards. I don’t have that same confidence with this. I don’t know if I will come out and never have another migraine again, or if I will come out and they will be the same. I don’t know, and he doesn’t either.

Once I get out of surgery I will be seeing a neurologist to follow-up on the migraines and probably have another scan to ensure 100% that there is nothing on my brain.  (On an aside, I still remembering reading this book as a kid about a girl who got a brain tumor, and for whatever reason it has been something that has stuck with me through the years.  I don’t think I have a tumor, but her story did make me want to ensure that I get things like this checked out.)

Anyways, I know that is a lot and way too much information to share on about my personal life that has nothing to do with fitness…however, for some reason keeping it bottled inside has been really tough and I felt I needed to put it out there for others to see.

Thanks for any well wishes and prayers as I go into surgery tomorrow at 10am.

August 2019 Update

I am happy to say that the surgery was very successful. He was able to get the full amount of the infection out and said I should be good to go for the future. HOWEVER, it did say this infection was most likely the result of years of untreated sinus infections or the overuse of antibiotics for situations that didn’t need it. So these days, when I feel a sinus infection may be brewing I no longer ignore it, or jump to the nearest doctor for a z-pack…instead I rest and recover.

With all of this, it took me almost a year to fully recover from both the knee and head surgeries within 10-days of each other. There were many high and low points throughout the journey to recovery, but I am so grateful I had it done.

These days I do still suffer from migraines, but with the help of Botox injections every 3-months I’m able to keep them under control. I am still hypersensitive to high intensity exercise, certain foods, lights, and temperature changes, but at this point I’ve learned my triggers and how to manage an oncoming migraine when I feel the symptoms (thanks Mountain Dew & Excedrin Migraine!).

With time I’ve also learned that my exercise routines can no longer include many days of high intensity interval training and I’ve come to fully value the notion of rest and recovery. I really do listen to my body these days. When it’s telling me it’s time to take a break, I listen to it. I plan each workout on that day – and while this is counterintuitive to everything I know about periodization and training, it’s what I have to do in order to not feel like shit daily. And I would prefer to feel good than live each day as I did from 2014-2016.

So if you’re finding this article because you’re dealing with overtranining syndrome, I truly hope yours doesn’t progress to the point in which you are suffering from a fungal infection in the middle of your sphenoid sinus, but if you are, know that you will get better….it just takes TIME.

Read the Full Story…

While you can get an essence of my struggles with overtraining syndrome by reading one part of the story, you really need to read the full 4-part series in order to get a true essence of the story, struggle, and changes that occurred over time. I originally published these stories in 2014 and 2015 as a way to process my emotions; today I hope they are a source of motivation and support as you work to overcome your own personal challenges.

Let’s Talk!!

I share my story with the hopes that even one person may recognize that the “MORE MORE MORE” culture of both group fitness and endurance athletes is not always the best.  Sometimes less really is more.

If you have any comments/questions/feedback, or just want to talk about your journey. Email me, or continue the discussion in our Facebook Group. I would love to hear your stories and see how we can help each other.

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