How Kim Zolciak-Biermann Went from 'Anger' to Gratitude Following Her Stroke

The former Dancing with the Stars contestant tells PEOPLE life's been an emotional roller coaster lately

Photo: Charles Sykes/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Kim Zolciak-Biermann doesn’t mince words about her recent health scare.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

Following the mini stroke that ended her run on this season of Dancing with the Stars and her recent heart surgery to repair the hole in her heart doctors discovered as a result of her hospitalization, she’s focusing on the positive, though it wasn’t always that way.

“I went from being angry, like, ‘Why – during something I love so much and I’m so happy doing – why the hell would this happen now?’ ” says the Don’t Be Tardy star. “I was so sad. I absolutely loved Dancing with the Stars. It was the first time I’d worked outside of my home in nine years. Being able to leave my house for a day and dance in costumes, the makeup and hair, it was the time of my life. I was heartbroken having to give that up. I still am.”

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But not long after the stroke, there came a moment when the weight of Zolciak-Biermann’s situation fully hit her.

“I kind of did a complete turn around one day and was able to process it,” says the mother of six. “I was driving home after dropping the kids off at school, and I just started to cry. I was like, ‘Oh my God Kim, you are so lucky to be here.’ I had had a pity party for myself but then I realized this is really blessing.”

It’s a blessing unequivocally attributes to DWTS. “The show saved my life,” she says of the long flights and physical exertion helping to unearth her preexisting condition. “This could have happened when I was 50 or something.”

Now for the first time, she’s taking it easy. “You really realize how short life is. I’m one of those people that’s always going and going. It definitely slows you down. You realize, if your house isn’t clean right now, who cares?”

For more on Kim Zolciak-Biermann’s health scare and recovery, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

Don’t Be Tardy‘s season finale airs Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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