I used to spend my days before stroke involved with a very rewarding career through my psychotherapy practice and playing an electric bass in a band. In my spare time, I spent time with family, friends, reading, church, and what not. I would say I had a very rewarding and rich life. And then, without warning, a stroke hit me in January 2012.
Surviving a stroke comes with options. I could spend my day frittering away watching TV, playing online games, or worse, perpetually feeling sorry for myself. I had to start life over again. All that I knew, other than my relationships, had, in a split second, vanished from my life. I had to learn to speak, swallow, walk, and learn how to operate without my dominant right hand, among other things. I decided to throw myself into rehab and I went searching for new options for my life purpose, despite the lingering effects (still) from my stroke.
I was asked by Idaho State University to lead an aphasia, apraxia, and dysarthria (speech disorders frequently experienced by stroke survivors) group for stroke survivors. Initially, I thought “How could I lead a group with aphasia and lead a group with my mixed-up brain?” Gratefully, I started it (and now is under the very capable hands of Mark, another stroke survivor who has aphasia). Then in 2015, I moved from Idaho to Kona, Hawaii. I volunteered at a homeless shelter and tried to start a stroke recovery group. Nothing captured me, although I did good things, all the while searching for a new purpose/venue in life.
Along the way, I have met lots of stroke survivors who gave me inspiration as they learn to swallow, raise their arm, dress, walk, or speak… things that “normal” people take for granted. I have met stroke survivors less fortunate that me, and some are more fortunate that me. I have met some who are living in a nursing home, unable to care for themselves. I have met some who return to their previous place and comforts of their previous prestroke life. Despite the loss of life as they knew it, and for some it has been severe, they didn’t hide themselves away. I heard and saw that, and it gave me hope and the courage to live beyond myself, and I wanted to emulate that.
In October 2015 I volunteered at the World Championship Ironman held every year at Kona, Hawaii. I had never been around triathlons and was just amazed that someone could swim, bike, and run, all within a prescribe time limit. By the end of it, I said to myself that’s something that I will strive for, maybe not a complete Ironman, but something much shorter. I wanted my life to count for something, and I wanted to show stroke survivors (and myself) there was something more than existing beyond stroke. So, I began training to be a triathlete.
For me, in a large way, it was about living for a purpose outside of myself. It’s about learning live with others in mind, as well as yourself. All stroke survivors have a story of triumph. You survived a stroke and that was no small feat in and of itself! Yes, you will have to grieve, and it is very painful. But share it! You are not alone, and as you work the stages of grief, share it! And as you regain functioning, no matter how small, share it! Share it with support groups (online or otherwise), and family and friends who will listen supportively.
That’s about empowerment. You take something tragic like stroke, and you turn it into a story determination, resilience, perseverance, and the joy of life. For me, triathlons have given me a platform to speak about bringing hope and empowerment stroke survivors. I happen to be stuck with the stroke and the unending inconveniences from my stroke, but I won’t allow the stroke to have the final say. I will continue the fight to give hope and empowerment to stroke survivors through the efforts of living my life, no matter how grand or small it may seem. Raising your fingers or taking steps are a story of victory. Share it! Your sharing may be the one thing that gives another the courage do try!
If this blogs touches you, won’t to please consider to make a donation to Stroke Survivors CAN!, a nonprofit devoted to helping stroke survivors find hope and empowerment. Your contribution helps this site possible and sponsors other stroke survivors who wish to pursue non-contact athletics!
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Stroke Survivors CAN
3451 E. Copper Point Dr.
Meridian, ID 83642
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