Antalya, Turkey, October 25, 2015 - It has made her stronger and more appreciative of her life as a professional beach volleyball player, she says. Alexandra Moiseeva underwent major surgery at the start of the season. Doctors took out part of her thyroid, because her hormone levels were disturbingly abnormal and could affect her heart.
But now the 32-year old St. Petersburg resident is back on the World Tour, feeling healthier than ever. A big scar in her neck is the only reminder of the difficult months that are behind her.
“I have had this thyroid problem my whole life”, Moiseeva explains. “I had my hormone levels checked every half year. But it didn’t effect my health in any way so far.”
“But the last test was bad, so bad that I couldn’t pass the medical test of the Russian federation.” Russia is very keen on testing athletes regularly, especially after a 19-year old professional ice hockey player, Alexei Cherepanov, died during a game in 2008 because of heart failure.
“I am on the national team, so we have to pass the medical test for the federation every year. That test happened in March, when we were already started preparing for the new season. We had already had one or two training camps.”
“The hormone level was abnormal, not disastrous, but it could be dangerous for my health the doctors said, since I am playing sports at a high level. It can be dangerous for the heart. And if there is just a small risk they won’t let you play.”
“I didn’t want to do the surgery. I hoped that I could play the season and have surgery afterwards, but unfortunately this all happened before the season and they said no, it’s needs to be done now. I was really upsetting that this all happened this season, such an important season before the Olympics, but there was no other way. I understand, because the doctors are responsible for my health. So what could I do?”
Moiseeva had to wait until June to have the surgery. “I tried to do it as quick as possible but that was impossible.” Most of the Russian specialists are based in Moscow, so she had to find a clinic in St Petersburg able to do the surgery. “That took a while. And the physical conditions had to be perfect.”
“After the surgery I felt good, as if nothing changed in my life. Only moving my neck was a bit awkward, so I tried not to move my head a lot. I asked the doctor: ‘When can I run’. He said: ‘Sit down for ten days, after that you can do whatever you want, but be careful with your head.’
Eventually it took me three months to recover. Of course I didn’t just lay on the sofa for three months, I tried to do as much as I could.” “It was difficult to get into shape again, because I was alone. All the national teams were playing competitions. So I was really alone, no coaches. I was my own coach. I tried to find possibilities to train, with anyone who was on the beach at that time.”
The past months have not only been tough physically. “It was also difficult mentally during those three months and before the surgery. I didn’t believe I could ever make a comeback, because there was so much different information on this surgery. Some doctors said: ‘No, if you do this you will never be your old self. Other doctors said it would not be a problem. So for me it was difficult to know who was right and who was not. And there are not a lot of athletes with this condition.”
But the surgery was successful. Moiseeva is still taking hormone pills, but less and less and she hopes eventually she doesn’t have to take them anymore.
In September she started to compete again. “Just after my final medical control I participated in the Russian cup final with Katia Syrtseva. We won, I was so happy!”
The 2008 Beijing Olympian entered the Xiamen Open with Anastasia Barsuk, finishing 17th. In the last World Tour event of the season, the Antalya Open, they ended up ninth. Next season she hopes to continue her partnership with 27-year old Barsuk, as was the plan at the beginning of this season.
Due to this forced break in her career Moiseeva found a new hunger for beach volleyball. “I think we will try to do our best to go to the Olympics through the Continental Cup. I hope. I will only take a few weeks break in the winter, because I am so hungry for beach volleyball, I just want to practice and play.”
She now realizes she has a very privileged life as a beach volleyball player. “This experience has made me stronger, because it gave me time to look from the outside to this life. What I really want and what I really can do. And I discovered that I was strong enough to do this alone, this comeback. Just by myself, recover and compete at the same level as before.”
“This all helps me now. I understand that it’s only me who can help myself and nobody else. It has made me stronger and more confident. It gave me a clear head, a clear mind, I look upon what I do and what I want with open eyes.”
“I think it’s a good thing to stop sometimes and reflect on what you have and what you are doing. I never talked about this surgery and the uncertain months to other people before like I do now and I think it’s good that I tell this story. It’s part of my recovery. And maybe it can help other athletes who are in similar situations.”