Peggy Miles relaxes outside her Deer Creek Village home, staring out at the great, big desert around her. And it's possible that no one feels more grateful to be alive today than she does.
Miles is the principal of Julia Randall Elementary School. She had a brush with death about three months ago, and she wants everyone to know she's back on her feet and feeling stronger each day.
She also has a surprise for her students and teachers. She's coming back to work a couple of hours each day next week. This is a big step following her critical medical emergency.
"I want to reconnect with the staff and students and let them know I'm still there for them, said Miles.
"I've missed you and I think about you often," she said with a big smile.
Needless to say, the past three months have been rough.
In late February, Miles went to the Payson emergency room with severe abdominal pain. Her intestines were twisted and obstructed. She nearly died.
"I was in severe pain and very scared. I thought I was checking out for good," she added.
"My biggest fear was leaving my children behind without a mom," Miles said.
She spent about a month in the hospital. First at Payson Regional Medical Center, then she was transferred to Good Samaritan in Phoenix.
In late April, just when she was starting to recover, she had a related setback and was hospitalized for 10 more days.
Despite the severity of her illness, she said she's managed to keep a pretty good attitude. She chalks that up to the support she's received from the community.
"At the Payson hospital, I had the coolest room, because of the letters and posters (that) hung all over the place. Those things lifted my spirits. I laughed when I read some the cute cards from the students. I've been overwhelmed by the response from many people in the community, and I thank everyone who took the time to write or pray for me," she said.
And in case the lifesaving benefits of Miles' good health don't inspire you to get into shape, nothing will.
"I believe I am here today because of my commitment to physical fitness," Miles said. "My doctor said the average person would not have survived such an ordeal. It was because of my fitness level that my body was able to recover.
Miles has been a long-distance runner for about 22 years. She's participated in marathons, triathlons and one duathalon. Prior to her emergency hospitalization, she ran about 6 miles a day.
Today, she's happy to take a slower-paced daily walk with her dog.
"When I started walking again, I reflected where I was a few months ago. I'm not even worried that I'm not running yet. I'm just lucky to put my feet on the dirt outside," she said.
Doctors just removed a feeding tube from her stomach Monday. Her diet is restricted for a while. Recently, though, she was able to eat one of her favorite dishes.
"I was really craving taquitos the other day, and my doctor let me eat a couple of them. They were great," she laughed.
Miles said she's grateful to God for helping her through these difficult months.
"I think I have been given a gift of life, a second chance at life," she said. "When I came home from the hospital, I went outside and said, ‘Thank you Lord!'"