Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘stroke recovery’

Most Brutal of Teachers



Insurance said I recovered as much as I could within a few months of my stroke, but I knew I could do more. I knew I would have to work hard, but my recovery was going to be worth every ounce of effort I put into it. It was necessary to improve beyond what I had suddenly been reduced to. Even with all of my hope, I never had the expectation that I would be back to 100% of where I was before my cerebral vascular accident (CVA). Did I want it back? Desperately! But, I also had to accept reality.


The reality, from the viewpoint on my hospital bed, was that I would never get everything back. Although, being a young stroke victim did offer a unique path to becoming a stroke survivor. I still am not graceful when I make a feeble attempt to jog, but at least I walk. My eyesight is completely missing on the left peripheral. Yet, through this I’ve come to realize a vision for a positive future has nothing to do with what your eyes see; rather, it is what your heart, mind, and soul can create for a reality.


I completely agree with C.S. Lewis. I learned. My God did I ever learn. I am extremely grateful I had this brutal teacher of life offer me these experiences. Growing up with epilepsy, I never would have thought I could have seizures which would nearly end my life. I never would have been able to comprehend the idea of brain surgery. I never understood what a stroke was. Why should’ve I? No one young faces things like these. (At least, that was the innocence I used to maintain.) I faced brutal teachers.


Yet, these battles have created an inner strength I never could have imagined. Within these unfortunate experiences, I have learned so much about our brains and bodies. I truly believe it is not only a need but also a gift to help share these life lessons and teach others who are in the midst of facing the brutal teachings life is throwing their way. I have learned. Now it is my hope, desire, and –might I even say- responsibility to help others through this unpredictable journey known as life.

Visiting The Doctors – Date Announcement

On November 10th, I began speaking with a producer from the television show The Doctors about a possible segment to educate people about epilepsy, experiencing a stroke at a young age, and how acquiring prosopagnosia alters a life. I welcomed the opportunity to help raise awareness.

Often times I’ve been asked why I do this. People want to know what I am hoping for when I put my life so publicly on display. My answer to this question has not altered since the very first presentation I did over four years ago. My goal every time I speak is to touch one life. I want to help educate someone. Maybe I’ll let a survivor know they are not alone. I want people to understand we should not live a life defined by a disability… We can explore and expand our abilities. A lot of people experience conditions which those of us on the outside will never fully understand. If even just one person understands that with hope, perseverance, and support we can overcome obstacles then my life on display is worth it.

On November 11th, a wonderful man came to my house to tape the back story interview. On November 14th, I went to Los Angeles to speak with Dr. Jennifer Berman, Dr. Jim Sears, and Dr. Travis Stork in front of their studio audience. Tomorrow, December 10th, my segment will air. I am anxious to see how the taped pieces will be edited together. What some people don’t realize is that I don’t get to watch the final segment before it airs. I will see it when you do. If you would like to watch it with me, this link will take you to the website of The Doctors where you can find the show’s time and channel in your area. And, hopefully, I will touch a life with this interview.

Not Waiting — Overcoming Excuses

“Tomorrow. The word hangs in the air for a moment, both a promise and a threat.”   Thrity Umrigar


My goal for celebrating the eleven year mark of my stroke was to go for an eleven mile walk.



On my stroke anniversary/birthday, June 25th, I set out to walk these eleven miles, yet I knew instantly it would hurt my hip and leg if I walked so far after having attempted to jog the day before.

 I waited until I thought it wouldn’t hurt.


For the next few weeks, I thought it would be too hot. We were hitting over 100 degrees(F) every day.

 I waited until it cooled down.


Then I went on vacation where I fell walking one day and hit my chin on the cement and broke off a tooth.


I waited until I healed.


After the vacation ended, every time I went out for a walk I came back after only a few blocks. I could not get over the fear of falling again.


I waited until the fear subsided.


Late in July, I decided it was time to face my fear and accomplish the goal I had set. I went out to finish that eleven mile walk. Yet, I couldn’t do it. Every single time I walked a mile or more on our neighborhood sidewalks, the sound of my tooth breaking on the pavement pushed into my mind and shattered my will to accomplish this goal.


I waited until the sound did not paralyze my mind.


Then, early this month, I realized fear and dread were controlling me. I had to walk longer distances again to maintain my strength. I’d come too far in the past eleven years. The stroke and its repercussions were winning. My new limitations were challenging my mind. I have always been too competitive to allow this.


I faced my dreaded fear of falling –and everything that came with it- and decided it was better to fall than to never push my limits again. It was important see where my goals could carry me.


I could no longer wait.



I walked and walked and walked. I walked beyond where I believed I could go. My eleven year/eleven mile milestone was completed.


Eleven Year following my stroke = Eleven miles walked

Eleven Year following my stroke = Eleven miles walked


I won. My goal for tomorrow was no longer postponed. I won!


“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” Proverb

Testing Gravity

“You may get skinned knees and elbows, but it’s worth it if you score a spectacular goal.”   Mia Hamm

 July 07, 2014


In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton watched an apple fall from a tree and began developing his Universal Law of Gravitation. In the past 327 years, this theory for gravity has been tested time and time again. It’s been proven true with every experiment. I once saw on a stroke survivor t-shirt, “I didn’t fall, I was just testing the existence of gravity”. I now declare to test it when falling on my knees, my hands, my elbows and, most recently, my face. Generally, I fall once every six month or so.


July 06, 2014

July 06, 2014


Early this month I traveled to my hometown. Presentations had been scheduled for the first Monday I was there. The day before this speech, my parents had graciously offered to invite extended family over for a meal. Being two thousand miles away, our visits are rare but treasured.

The morning of our family get-together, I went out for a walk with my husband and Mom. During this walk, I tested gravity again. As I fell, I stopped myself with the hand holding my phone, my chin, and my front, right tooth. I broke that tooth. My speech was slurred. I had a presentation in eighteen hours. My chin was cut deep enough we thought I might require stitches. My wrist and knees were bleeding. I had family coming over in two hours.

Thankfully, there’s a wonderful emergency room in a nearby small town. They saw me right away and fixed me with concern, compassion, and medical skill. An amazing dentist in our town rushed to his office on this Sunday morning and bonded my tooth. Thank you Wolken Dental for making it appear as if nothing ever happened. My visiting family forgave me, and even helped me laugh about my dramatic entrance a few hours late.

When I started book talks and presentations over the next week, the participants not only heard about the challenges life delivers as a young stroke patient, but also saw these challenges first-hand from the battle wounds I wore on my face, wrists, and knees. The speech offered a great demonstration of my ongoing attempt to help people understand when you fall, you brush off your knees, wipe your hands, and carry on.

People have said I am too positive. I have heard I am unreasonably optimistic. Yes. Yes to both of these statements. I am hopeful. I am positive. I am happy and optimistic. You see, for example with this fall, I am acutely aware what a gift I have walking again. I know exactly how far I have come and am reminded what is still missing. I prefer to celebrate what I have recovered since my stroke. I would never fall down, never break a tooth, and never crack open my chin or scrape up my knees if I was bound to a wheelchair. I am walking. I get out of bed every morning and walk independently. If falling down every six months is the price I have to pay for walking, well, I consider that a mighty small price for the opportunity to experience the other abilities I celebrate and embrace every other day of the year.

Next day at Oelwein library ready to present.

Next day at Oelwein library ready to present.

Book talk and presentation in Guttenberg July 8, 2014

Book talk and presentation in Guttenberg July 8, 2014



I fell down. I brushed off my knees, wiped my hands, and carried on.



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