BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — A Belvidere man hopes that his message will save lives.

The veteran’s brush with death inspired him to take on a challenge and improve his health. R. Brady Johnson, survivor turned motivational speaker, said that people should not ignore the signs. He was once a healthy and active young adult, but regrets not going to the doctor like he should have.

“That was probably the most lost I’d ever been in my life, because I didn’t know if I was going to die and I was extremely scared,” Johnson said.

Johnson recalled the moment that he realized his health was in serious condition. The United States Air Force veteran described hearing his heart beat through his ears and feeling pain in his head. He was going through a divorce and move at the time, so he thought it was due to stress.

He was wrong, however, and his doctors told him what was really happening.

“That headache that you thought was just stress, you’ve been bleeding for the past three months,” Johnson said.

He was taken into brain surgery when he had a stroke at 31-years-old.

“I was told, ‘Mr. Johnson, with such a massive stroke, you’ll never be able to speak clearly, you’ll never be able to get the opportunity to walk without aid, you’ll never be able to go back to work, you will never drive,’” Johnson said.

He was determined to prove them wrong, and he did. He made gradual improvements; first talking, then walking.

“When they tell me to walk 5, I’d walk 5 then ask, ‘can I walk 10 more,’ and that’s the way that I did it,” Johnson said.

However, Johnson suffered yet another stroke in 2015. He said he knew he had to make a change at that point, and he got connected with a lifting coach.

“I told him I just had a stroke, I’m obese, but I want to be bodybuilder,” Johnson said.

He is now getting ready for a bodybuilding competition next month. His advice to anyone going through tough times is that life is a comma, not a period. That is what he talks about in his book “A Life of Commas: A Soldier’s Story.”