Ahwatukee Foothills resident Leisel Kurtenbach, 50, knew there was something wrong going on in her body. She just didn't know what.
She was 32 then, and four years of medical testing later her doctor discovered that she had Cushing's Syndrome, and that a tumor was growing on her pituitary gland. The initial plan was to go in for surgery and get it removed. But Kurtenbach had a stroke in the days leading up to it.
Months fell off the calendar as she went through rehabilitation. She lost feeling on the right side of her body.
But things turned around, and Kurtenbach slowly started to make progress in her recovery.
It was short-lived. She had another stroke a few years later.
"They gave me less than a 5-percent chance of recovery," Kurtenbach said.
That was 15 years ago. After the second stroke, her marriage fell apart and she went through a divorce.
At that time, she knew she had to do something, especially since the doctors had given such a grim prognosis.
"I knew I had to reinvent myself," Kurtenbach said. "Every day was a gift."
When things started to settle down, Kurtenbach, a mother of four, went back to school and got a degree in mortuary science and, eventually, started to work as a mortician. Among other responsibilities, she did some embalming and cosmotological work.
"I loved that job, I did everything," Kurtenbach said. "I thought it was a very important job because you are dealing with people in their saddest moments."
But the journey wasn't over yet. Kurtenbach left her job as a mortician and went back to school once more and received a bachelor's degree in secondary education and English.
After a few years of teaching, she found her calling. It was one that had been there all along. Kurtenbach had felt the desire to write since she was in seventh grade.
Her favorite topic? Ghost stories.
"I remember being captivated by ghost stories as a child," Kurtenbach said. "I remember writing stories back then and my teachers would give me great feedback. It inspired me to keep writing, and to get me to where I am today."
She has written two horror novels that are currently on sale at Amazon.com. The first two, "Haunt Me Forever" and "Immortal Infidel," are part of a three-novel series. Kurtenbach is currently working on the conclusion and hopes to have it out within a year.
"I love the feeling of putting a story together, it is very satisfying," she said.
Kurtenbach's outlook is good, as she works out everyday to stay healthy. There is no doubt she is using her precious time on earth to do what she loves.
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