8/25/21 – 1/25/2022

Today I am five months out from my mild stroke. I’m doing well. Recovery from my stroke this summer takes time and energy and lots of rest. I know every stroke and every recovery is unique. I share this as my experience so far with my stroke with the hope it will inspire others.

Every thought, be it task-oriented, memory practice, listening or physical stamina-building, requires my darling brain cells to do some work in building new neural pathways. Some of the newer pathways are being constructed by newbies and they’re not always ready, or they need a nap.

Recovery Experiences

I’ve had some “interesting” experiences where those new little cells seem to be working out a new dance routine. It’s a fabulous routine but some cells either didn’t get the rehearsal memo or dance to their own rhythm. Then my body feels wobbly. Or I need to slow down (lots) and go somewhere quiet, aka time out. I am overwhelmingly grateful that If it’s rest I need, I am free to do that. 

I need to tell myself to  do mindful breathing, be calm, stop or rest. Each of those thoughts has to go through brain passages and the little new cells often say “Hold up there, We’re not ready to figure this one out.” They used to send me painful headaches as a signal. Sometimes now it’s overwhelming instant fatigue or small tingles.Then they stop, get out their little nap mats and lie down. So do I. After that, we’re ready to go again.

Numbers often play a game of mascarade. What I read as an 8, I may write as a 5, and even say as  “2” when I attempt quick calculations. This precludes me becoming treasurer of any organizations for the present time. Don’t give me a checkbook.

Stepping Into the Best There Is

Meet me at Mt. Lemmon

Much “research shows” the first six months to a year after a stroke hold the greatest opportunity for neuroplasticity ( the capacity of neurons and neural networks in the brain to change their connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage, or dysfunction). So I’m taking all opportunities to read, meditate, write, listen, laugh, and talk with friends. Daily exercises like walking, yoga, and modified tennis have the effects of making me feel strong, happy, and almost athletic. The more I repeat an action, the easier it is to remember. My newbies thank me for that. Also “research shows” recovery can continue for years after a stroke. I saw that with my mother, my brother-in-law’s improvement after his stroke, and members of New Jersey and Tucson aphasia groups.

Therapy and More

My language/memory therapist is working with me on memory with distractions, recalling lists, and extemporaneous speaking. How grateful I am for my Toastmasters™ training in speaking “off the cuff.” I’ve been a serial list maker for decades, so that is a plus. Memory and distractions?? Come on, that is no stranger to me.

I see myself as crossing the bridge back-bringing me to a full recovery and living an aware regular lifestyle. My support systems – medical, family, online connections, and friends – are incredible. Thank you for being kind, patient, and loving, and making sure I get some laughs. My sweetheart Hank remains a National Treasure and I wake up each day feeling oh so thankful and loved.

Life is good.

Stroke Resources

If someone you know has had a stroke or if you are simply interested in more stroke recovery info, here are some resources that have helped me:

  • Flint Recovery-Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/flintstrokesupportgroup , their website https://www.flintrehab.com/learn/ and their newsletter, which is a complication of excellent articles on recovery, how to help a stroke survivor, and lots of stuff we never knew about that fascinating organ-the brain. 
  • My language/memory therapist has used The Ultimate Memory Activity Book by Alexis Olson, PhD which has individual or partner-assisted activities. 
  • Also Quiddler®, Rummikub®, crossword puzzles, math-keep it simple-adding subtracting, multiples. Please, no calculus. A dedicated amount of time every day actually works. Or doing any of the things many of us have been doing since we became of age to get the medicare card. Spelling, Sudoku, and solitaire-sure! 
  • My medical insurance also has online recommendations. Check yours.  
  • Stroke Resource Center of Southern Arizona https://soazstrokeresources.org 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a mic.