On Rediscovering Light, Meaning, and Joy After Illness and Loss

Photographer: Colin McCarthy

Ventura, California has become the unexpected backdrop to the most serene chapter of my life yet. It’s a cute little beach town nestled between LA and Santa Barbara, with gentle surf and friendly bike trails on tap. I moved down here as a power-pivot to give my nervous system a little reset back in 2021, and to grieve the closure of my fitness studio and community, Tight Club Athletics.

Here’s the thing… moving to California was my green-grass fantasy, but if we fast-forward from here to September 2023, my life was anything but serene. I was back to my bullshit. Too much work, not enough play; plowing my way into the inevitable reality of resentment, depression, and burnout. And then I got some really shitty news about my mom’s health, and let’s just say my body short-circuited and I blew a fuse. And by blowing a fuse, I mean I had a stroke.


“Let’s just say my body short-circuited and I blew a fuse. And by blowing a fuse, I mean I had a stroke.”

Finding out about my stroke on the same day I took my mom in for radiation was the hip check I needed to pull it together and slow the f down. I taught 9 fitness classes throughout the onset of my stroke, chalking it up to “stress” while I was losing the ability to control my left hand and speak a sentence without having to muscle through every syllable. I believed I was invincible, and what a trip it has been finding out that in fact, I am not.

When my doctor ordered me to cut out basically everything I enjoyed doing—exercising, teaching, sports, etc.—I figured I’d use this time to get smarter or something. I fantasized about reading all these books, learning how to garden, and catching up with all my old pals. I was for sure going to use this time to figure out my next career move. But my ‘aha’ moment never really came. Sure, I morphed into a full-fledged soup girlie—not mad at that—but like, aside from cooking, crying, sleeping, and walking, not much was accomplished. It took about 3 months of this nothing business to realize that doing nothing, in fact, was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I owned LAZY! And being lazy was working for me.

I used to fear lazy. My identity was so tied up in the opposite of it, yet here I was embracing it like a healing hug. We hugged. And hugged, and hugged, and hugged, until lazy set me free. It may have taken a while, but I did end up reading a book. And I’m pretty stoked on the new house I moved myself and my husband into (all by myself while he was on a work trip).


“It took about 3 months of this nothing business to realize that doing nothing, in fact, was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.”


Photographer: Colin McCarthy

Over the past six months, I have learned a lot about how precious and fleeting life can be. By slowing down and creating space in my life to heal, connect, dream, and just be, I allowed myself the opportunity to evolve and grow. Amidst what might’ve seemed like idle days, I found myself engaged in a subtle dance with serenity. My ‘sabbatical’, it turns out, was less about laziness and more about unlocking the secrets of what makes me feel my brightest and boldest.


“Amidst what might’ve seemed like idle days, I found myself engaged in a subtle dance with serenity.”


My hope is that these ideas inspire you to see that embracing change, even when it’s forced upon you, can lead to remarkable personal growth and transformation. Here we go:


  1. Embrace the unexpected beat. Instead of weightlifting 4 days a week, I started line dancing 1 day a week, and the GAINZ were incredible 😉 By daring to try something entirely new, I found myself working on skills I never would have explored otherwise. And I love it! For the first time in a while it made me feel fun, sexy, and alive.
  2. Fine-tune your talents. I love singing, but unfortunately, it seems my vocal talents weren’t appreciated by others. Determined to improve, I turned to a singing app called Simply Sing (while in the bath, I might add), and now I crush at karaoke. It’s incredible how simply singing your heart out can work wonders for your well-being, lift your mood, melt away tension, and leave you feeling utterly invigorated.
  3. Seek support. Tired of burdening my friends with my struggles, I decided it was time for a change. Enter therapy—a safe space to unload my thoughts, process my emotions, and gain valuable insights without fear of judgment or overloading my loved ones. You’re welcome, EVERYONE!
  4. Rekindle dreams. Rediscovering a list I penned at age 12 titled ’50 things I want to do by the time I turn 50′ brought on a flood of nostalgia and laughter. From whimsical dreams like ‘hold a monkey’ to embarrassing aspirations like ‘get dreadlocks,’ revisiting these childhood fantasies inspired me to start anew, embracing the joy of dreaming and setting goals once more.
  5. Get to know yourself. Despite lacking a PhD in neuroscience, my stroke sparked an uncanny curiosity about the inner workings of my noggin. Having a better understanding of my brain injury (can I call it that?) helped me make more informed decisions on my health and how I move through life now—which is great because I found myself gaining a semblance of control over my circumstances.
  6. Find light in memories. On those particularly bleak days, when even my own awesomeness seemed a distant memory, I stumbled upon a rather unlikely savior—digitized home videos. Picture this: me, curled up in bed, revisiting the unfiltered hilarity and humility of my past. It was like flipping a switch, you know? Amidst the laughter and tears, I found myself reconnecting with the essence of who I am and where I came from. Turns out, sometimes all it takes to brighten your darkest days is a little trip down memory lane.
  7. Cultivate connection through gathering. Life has this funny way of reminding us of its fragility. It’s in those moments, when the weight of mortality looms, that we truly grasp the treasure of togetherness. So, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, or any occasion that brings your loved ones together, seize the opportunity and document the heck out of it. Because when faced with the stark reality of ‘terminal illness,’ you realize just how few and fleeting these moments truly are. Don’t wait for tomorrow—embrace the chance to create lasting memories today.


Photographer: Colin McCarthy



Keighty Gallagher is an influential mover, teacher, and leader in every community she sets her mind on, driven by her love for making movement happen, however it looks. Her movement journey is diverse, much like her creative expressions: Weight-lifting, track and field, snowboarding, surfing.  An accomplished hepthathlete, Keighty is a former captain of Canada’s National Youth Athletics Team and NCAA Div. 1 track and field athlete. She is the founder and Head Coach of Tight Club Athletics, a boutique community center for everyone; former athletes looking to get their kicks back, those who’ve never had the space to see themselves as an athlete, and everyone else who’s looked for room to create, reset, and be themselves. For her, movement is about self-expression, about connecting to a grander whole, about creating positive experiences, about moving for yourself in season. 

These days, Keighty has entered yet another curiosity stage. While focusing on nurturing her personal health and creativity, she’s taken a step away from teaching for the time being. Like a sponge, Keighty is in her opening stage, taking in all the juicy bits her environment has to offer. In the meantime, you can catch her on her own online platform, TCTV. Her motto? Move like how you should, stay curious, and be kind to yourself. Move with her on the Movement online wellness studio and try classes for strength, mobility, fun, and confidence.