My Survivor's Path
Facing a full left-side paralysis, I chose travel, writing and local activities, in addition to physical therapy.
Suddenly I fell down on the floor in my office. I rolled over to the left and felt that was strange. I thought I missed my chair while trying to sit in it, causing the fall, and landing loudly on the floor.
I continued to work all through the day, although my hip hurt when I walked. The next morning I did a fifteen minute yoga video and then drove to work. However, I didn't have any balance when I got to the office and ended up in the emergency room. It was then I found out I had had a stroke, an ischemic one. Later the neurologist determined it was due to my high blood pressure. I was also told by a physical therapist that my age was against me in recovering, seventy years old. A full left side paralysis, head to toe, left me unable to stand. The therapists lifted me and held me, standing up. This is how my retirement began, as I gave up being controller in an insurance business.
Eight months after the stroke I decided to go ahead with prior plans to travel to Prague in the Czech Republic with a group of travelers I had signed up with a few months before the onset of my illness. No regrets. It was a joy to see that part of the world and delve into its history and meet first hand people who had lived in that once communist regime. There was always someone who would push me in a wheelchair, especially the tour guide.
Travel just got into my blood, no matter the struggle. The more I traveled the more challenges I met, increasing my confidence and endurance. The next year I went on a cruise and then a trip to Mexico's southern Pacific coast where my son lived. I found myself staying alone in a cabana on the beach, hearing the waves roaring at night and wondering what I had gotten myself into. A friend accompanied me on the trip, and we spent time lounging in hammocks sheltered by the coconut trees and a palm leaf thatched roof overhead.
I continued to take cruises, visits to Mexico, and then again to Europe, flying to Germany. My favorite time there was a night in an elegant apartment on the bank of the Neckar River, near the Old Bridge, across from the historic Heidelberg Castle, perched on a hilltop, lighting up the sky at night.
I also travelled to California, seeing Lake Tahoe's majestic mountains and evergreens as well as a winery staged on the Santa Cruz Mountains with panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. What enriching experiences!
I have done some writing and speaking since the stroke. I gave talks at Texas Women's University in the Medical Center here in Houston to a class of physical therapy students. I also gave a talk to a Stroke Support Group here. I have written several articles, as well as a poem, that were published and wrote an essay for the local Public Broadcasting Corporation station and presented it on the air. An article was written about my stroke journey in a newsletter distributed by Methodist Hospital in the Houston Medical Center. I hope to continue to write, as it is a creative expression I enjoy.
Last year I had a cancerous kidney and bladder. A few months later following a heart attack, I had a triple bypass. It has been another test to regain my health, along with the stroke.
I find as much pleasure as possible in life from my daily activities and relationships. My stroke is still with me, every step I take, but I have learned my happiness depends on my attitude and willingness to reach out and connect to those who cross my path during my journey as a stroke survivor.