It is kind of weird to say it’s the anniversary of my stroke. Unlike other milestones that survivors celebrate saying you’re celebrating the anniversary of your stroke just seems well weird.
How often do you hear people proudly announce they’re 1, 5 or even 10 years cancer free? They’re not celebrating the day they found a lump or received bad news from a doctor. No they’re celebrating the day their body was rid of a disease. Same applies to addicts. Whether it is Alcohol, Gamblers or even Sexual Addicts Anonymous they celebrate the first day they beat their addiction not the day it shattered their lives.
So how do I handle this Anniversary?
When I look back on the year and all that I have been through it is pretty emotional to say the least. Strangely the last few days I have been having crystal clear memories of moments before the stroke. I can remember driving to BJ’s with Michael and Patrick thinking about all that I needed for the Chili I was making that night. I remember going into BJ’s and looking at the TV’s. The last thing I clearly remember was trying to talk to Patrick and the words came out garbled and his replying how sometimes his tongue gets twisted around words.
A scary memory that has been haunting me for a few days now is one from a couple of days before the stroke. We were driving to Tampa and as usual I was having a bit of a headache. I recall hearing this voice in my head. I also remember thinking ~What is your problem why would you think that? What the voice said was “I can’t take much more of this I’m going to crash”. I dismissed the thought and continued listening to a Kathy Reich’s book on tape.
With those thoughts comes an overwhelming sense of irresponsibility. How was I not listening to my body? What was I doing shopping with a headache like that? How could I have prevented this from happening?
Chances are there is very little I could have done to prevent the stroke. Is it possible that what I thought a great busy weekend just too much and the straw that broke the camel’s back? Maybe. Is that to say if we didn’t go to Tampa, Orlando and been simply busy I wouldn’t have had the stroke?? Who knows? From what the doctors have said it was going to happen sooner or later.
I know that I am incredibly lucky with how and where my stroke occurred. The fact that Michael knew the warning signs was tantamount to my receiving near instant care. The fact that the hospital was barely 5 minutes away from BJ’s which enabled me to receive the needed medicine to prevent further damage was monumental. My acceptance into an incredible rehab facility, or the fact that I even had access to one was again incredible. Most importantly the support system from many many people during and continuing to this day is beyond comprehension.
So returning to my original question: Why does celebrating the anniversary of my stroke seem so weird or here’s another word choice uncomfortable?
Maybe it shouldn’t be celebrated. Maybe I should pick a different day? Which day would it be?
· The day I moved out of ICU
· The day I was able to talk?
· The day I was allowed to eat food
· The day I left the hospital to go to Rehab
· The day I no longer needed a Wheelchair
· The day I dressed myself
· The day I left Rehab/came home
· The first day I spent by myself
· The day I was allowed to drive again
· The day I could finally eat any food
· The day I was done with speech therapy
· The day I was done with physical therapy
The list goes on and on of small milestones? Here’s the reality~ I’m still recovering in some ways. While it isn’t as often I still have issues with aphasia. I am still dealing with the migraines that have plagued me since. I am still in stress therapy. My family still watches me for signs of a stroke.
Most of all I am absolutely terrified of having another stroke.
Unlike the cancer survivor who gets a check-up to confirm that they are still cancer free, there isn’t a test that can tell me I’m stroke-free. Unlike the addict who knows what their one specific downfall is, I don’t have one trigger that I have to avoid.
So how to handle the day, well just as you wouldn’t celebrate the anniversary of a car accident you survived I am not going to celebrate. However I am going to recognize the change that is was brought to my life. The stroke did shatter my world. But just as an artist can use pieces of broken tile or glass and create a mosaic I have been able to start putting together the shattered parts of what used to be my life and create a new me. While I have lost certain aspects there has always been gain. Or here’s another analogy: It is not as if the picture of my life broke into pieces that fit back together like a puzzle. The basic picture is still there however the pieces don’t fit together as tightly, some colors have changed and a few pieces were completely lost in the process.
February 19th will always be a day that I reflect back on. I am sure as the years pass this day will hold less and less meaning in my life. One that I am looking forward to celebrating is the anniversary of this blog. While I was writing while in the hospital and rehab when I “opened” my blog and essentially myself to the blogosphere was an exciting milestone in my entire recovery. I hope that my new website will be ready for that celebration. And of course we can't forget the creation of "Lady Bren" :0)
Since I started thinking on this day one song keeps replaying over and over in my head…. Enjoy