The physical pain Kelly Heese experienced was unbearable.
Zapped of energy, the usually spry Heese struggled to maintain her frenetic pace of life.
She knew something was wrong and sought help.
After being subjected to five MRIs, a spinal tap and blood work, Central Valley High School's varsity girls volleyball head coach finally got an answer.
Heese, 45, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) on Aug. 2. MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Neurologists originally thought Heese had tumors because scans revealed she had several lesions on her brain and one on her spine.
"I've been dealing with this since the middle of June," she said. "The most frustrating part is I'm so exhausted all the time. The biggest struggle is understanding this is something I'm going to have to deal with for the rest of my life."
Even though it will be more challenging, coaching will continue to be a part of Heese's life.
She's not prepared to vacate her position.
"This is my love and passion," Heese said. "This is something I live for. My dad was a coach. It's in my blood. I believe it's something God called me to do."
Central Valley has improved each season under Heese's guidance
The Hawks posted a 15-4 overall record and beat four-time defending Western Athletic Conference-champion Los Banos twice on their way to finishing second overall (10-3) in the 2015 league standings. Central Valley also advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the second year in a row.
The Hawks accomplished several firsts in 2014 when they qualified for the postseason and compiled a winning record. Central Valley finished third in the WAC (8-5).
The Hawks had the fourth-best record in conference play (5-7) and just missed advancing to the playoffs during Heese's first year as head coach.
Central Valley dropped 10 of 12 matches en route to tying for last place in the WAC with crosstown-rival Ceres High in 2012.
The Heese-led Hawks will be vying for their third consecutive winning season this fall with a revamped roster as three-year standout Julia Ramsey graduated in June, along with Ellysa Widas and Alyssa Costa.
"It will depend on the effort the girls put out there and how hard they work," she said.
Heese staged tryouts, Aug. 10-12. Approximately 13 players earned roster spots.
"I'm going to work with what I have," she said. "The girls are scrappy."
Mariana Garibay (Jr.), Marissa Camarillo (Sr.), Blanca Espinoza (Sr.), Adriana Haynes (Sr.), Adria Robinson (Sr.) and Carmen Sanchez (Sr.) are returning players.
Kayla Walker (Jr.), Jacquelyn Sanchez (So.), Brianna Quiroz (So.) and Anysia Lopez (Fr.) are new to the team.
"She (Ramsey) was an all-round great player," Heese said. "It was almost like having an assistant coach on the court. It was very beneficial. Mariana has that potential. But she's not as vocal. There are other ways to be a leader. She's grown leaps and bounds as a hitter. She's improved her blocking skills. She's a very positive, young lady."
Central Valley will begin Western Athletic Conference play against visiting Livingston on Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m.
"The bottom line is my health has to be my main concern," Heese said. "I have to make sure I listen to my body. I have to slow down. I have three daughters and two grandchildren. I want to be around for a long time. As of now, there's no cure for it (MS). You can take injections. They're supposed to keep everything under control. It's a waiting game. I'm just thankful it's this and not tumors."