“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym
There is an old American idiom, “kick butt and take names”. I had to make a choice. I understood what had happened. I understood my body was not going to patiently wait for a response. It was by no means a conscious immediate choice to face this challenge. Yet, the choice was mine and mine alone: Learn to fight for what I lost and use -to the fullest- what I had remaining. No one else could make my leg and arm work. Not even the most specialized doctors could fix the areas of my brain the stroke took away.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. I want people to know that strokes affect everyone differently. Where the damage hits the brain, and how severely it hits, will change the possible outcome. This reality should be neither misunderstood nor denied. Everyone has to have hope. Healing will come in different forms and at different speeds. But, no one should deny that the spirit and tenacity with which brain injuries are fought will also alter the recovery outcome.
There was a chance I would not walk again without assistive devices. There was a chance I would not see again. There was a lot unknown. The brain surgery and following stroke tried to kick my butt. However, I am too stubborn and way too competitive to allow this.
I still do not have any left peripheral eyesight. I also have several remaining disabilities you can’t see. People look at me and assume I have a completely able body and mind. The key is I face my challenges. They do limit what I am able to do, but I never stop fighting against those limitation and daring to have hope of where I believe I can be. Below is the picture from a walking tracker I use every morning when I go out for walks. These numbers represent what I have done during the month of May. The doctors were right; I will never get back my eyesight. The doctors were sort of wrong… I can walk independently again, but I cannot run – yet.
I will fight to create my destiny with an immense amount of gratitude. The stroke came at me. It attacked my brain. It left me with a brain injury. I accepted the challenge and fought back. In the end of this struggle I want it to be known, I kicked the stroke’s butt and I am eager to share its name!
“Challenges in life can either enrich you or poison you. You are the one who decides.” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience