Updated: Sep 24, 2020
“She changed but not overnight like in the books you read. Over years. Slowly and painfully. Sometime brutally. But she did.” - Unknown
You aren’t aware yet, but your life is going to change substantially. I understand your blueprint in life has bestowed thus far. You have a secure job; you are newly married, and life seems complete with only minor blips. I’m here to tell you that something is coming and it’s going to rock your world in ways that seem unimaginable, hard to digest, and a test of your strength. It’s going to shape you for the rest of your life. This event is horrifying but I am here to tell you that you come out stronger than ever.
You don’t know it yet, but on a cold winter night, you will get up one night from the sofa and feel a rubber band snap at the back of your head. Your neck will ache in ways you did not think was possible. You will collapse on the floor and contend to crawl your way to the bathroom as you begin to vomit. You are going to be terrified. You are smart, however. You know what this means. Have no fear because I’m here to say, that instead of laying on the floor, you will have the strength to make two important phone calls. You will be able to gather the strength to get up from the floor and make it to the bottom of the stairs. Even though things in that moment are not favorable, and your core agrees, you will go into battle mode. Remember this quote, “Don’t you dare underestimate the power of your own instinct”, - Barbra Corcoran
You will feel petrified, as you are carted by the ambulance to the hospital. Everything inside you will tell you this is different. Yet, you will compose yourself. “Life is tough but darling so are you” - Unknown. You have no choice, because no one is going to take your condition serious in the beginning. Remember this, “Underestimate me. That’ll be fun” -Unknown. It will be critical that you become your own advocate and express your symptoms many times because your situation will not get better. After duress, a physician will believe that this is urgent. The moment that you are carted down for a CT scan your life will change tremendously. You will receive results that show blood coursing through your brain. It’s serious, and life-threatening. Tears will well up and your lips will quiver, because it’s uncertain if you will make it. You haven’t faced something like this. You never thought you would be in this position. I am here to tell you that your body has declared war and it’s time to suit up. Remember “Turn your pain and fear into power” -Unknown. The sweet angel's above will give you grace and remove your memory for the remainder of the night. This gift will spare you the barbaric stuff that will transpire once you arrive to another hospital to help alleviate the blood building in your brain. Remember, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” -Victor Hugo
When you awake, don’t be frightened. There will be a team of doctors surrounding you. You will think it’s a bad dream, but it’s not. This is real and serious, and the information you receive will be hard to digest. The tears will begin to rise, when you are fully aware that you are hooked up to machines, with a drain in your head. You will look around and see family in the room and the doctors will continue explaining what happened. While you fight having a panic attack, you somehow become strong. What would make someone crumble into a million pieces, gives you strength. Remember, “Stay positive even when it feels like your whole world is falling apart” - Unknown. You will sideline several negative thoughts, because you will come to realize that it’s time to put on war paint because you are in warrior mode. Remember, “The devil whispers “you can’t withstand the storm.” The warrior replied “I am the storm”- unknown.
You will feel pain that you have never experienced. You will encounter many sleepless nights, while you wait for more information. When you are told that you will need an eleven-hour invasive surgery, that could be life or death, you will push every horrible thought away from your mind. Yet, you will still be scared. I won’t lie, but it’s important that you rise because you will need to believe in yourself and the medical team and show your family that you are ready for this fight. Remember, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you”- Unknown.
You will look at your family differently, because on the surface you will think it’s the last time you will see them. However, deep inside, you know that you will. Close your eyes, and let the feelings intertwine. You will rewind your life to remember everything you can, because you may not have that opportunity. You will say if it’s time for me to go, then let me go. During your procedure it will seem like a lifetime for your family waiting but it will feel like a few seconds for you. You will survive the surgery, and when you wake up, the emotions will be overwhelming. You will feel pain all over your body, but it will be an afterthought. You will be visited by a team of physicians again, and you will be gracious and thank them for saving your life. Your humor will come out and will crack a few jokes. It’s not going to be easy, however. You are going to have 19 days in the hospital in excruciating pain. You will have dark thoughts because the pain is too much that you will wish you died that night. Remember “Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted by reality.” – Bruce Lee”. You won’t except defeat. You will push those dark feelings to the corner, and you will fight through those awful days with a smile on your face. You will thank every single person that walks in the room that helps you from doctors, nurses, and cleaning staff. You will relish the moments your friends, family and husband walk through the doors. When you see their faces and hear their voices, everything will seem wonderful during that time. Love has a different meaning for you. You will learn, just you wait.
You will endure another surgery, sadly. You will have complications. You will feel like you are seeing the light, or wish you were seeing the light because you can’t take it anymore. You will cry and scream in your head, “why me”, “why me”? You will pray that this pain will be taken away in some form. In the moment you except dying again. As you travel more to the light, you will see a hand reach out to you. Something whispers that you are going to be alright. In that moment, you open your eyes and the warrior comes back. Perhaps, more powerful than ever. “You have within you, right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you- Unknown".
After all the surgeries and you are back home, you will be faced with a pandemic. I know it sounds unfathomable that only a month ago you were skipping around a beach, and now you and everyone else is fighting something that can’t be won. This will make your recovery tricky, yet it will be a blessing because while you sit in heal, you aren’t missing much. I know you will feel the need to run out in the world and declare a new appreciation for life and want this second chance to count. Your time will come, just not yet. “I will win not immediately but definitely- Unknown". While you wait, you slide back and forth with how recovery will look like. Slow down, let it naturally come to you. You will find your mind itching to stay active. Don’t worry, you will find several ways to occupy your time. This is something that I want you to understand that’s the most powerful thing to come out of this tragedy. You will not sit and wallow. You will sit and be determined to get better. “I’m thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength” - Unknown.
You will discover a gift that you will appreciate- writing. You begin to write in the hospital to track everything and you continue to do it at home as you recover. You will cascade your emotions, and create a blog, because you know that you aren’t the only one going through this struggle. Your blog might be a dime a dozen, but it’s still something special. While blogging, you find more strength as you begin to believe your own words because it’s authentic. You will get involved with the stroke community and help people with encouragement that are in that dark place that you were in. You will also learn from them as well. You will find your purpose in life, and it’s one that you never thought would become your purpose. It’s a selfless act, one that you never thought you are capable of. You will find yourself more intertwined with patient advocacy and research. You will come to realize there is not enough information about your type of stroke, the reason it happens or the long-lasting impact it has on someone, nor the resources to help people. You will see a list of recovery groups, but you know that individuals are different. Some might not open about their experience or emotions in a group, because it’s heavy. Some don’t have mental health as part of their insurance or insurance at all. You will come to see this is something worth fighting for. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world." -Mahatma Gandhi”.
When you embark on this empowered journey, I will tell you there are going to be days you fall- it's called grief. “Fall seven times, stand up eight “-Unknown. You have never encountered true grief. You know there are seven stages, but how and when they come has always been a mystery to you. One day you will get up and take on the world, and the next moment you will cry. You will ask questions, you will bargain with yourself, you will find acceptance and then it starts all over again. You will learn that grief never leaves. It gets quiet as time goes on, but you will be strong and learn how to handle them when they creep up. There will be nights that you wake up in a sweat because you dream about that horrific night over and over and the paramedics shine a bright light in your eye, take your pulse and hear someone say, “call it”. Despite these nightmares, remember, “Get up every morning and tell yourself “I can do this”- Unknown. The nightmares will leave, not for good, but not a nightly occurrence.
As the days continue your armor will become tenacious. That’s when you know that you will be ready to go back to work. You will be told that recovery takes a long time, but you will not let that become an excuse. “I’m ready to take on the world”, you tell yourself. Going back to work will give you a sense of normalcy by getting your toes back into the water. Despite doubts within yourself and maybe others remember, “A river cuts through a rock not because of its power but its persistence” -Unknown. I will inform you that initially it’s a struggle, not by lack of knowledge but you will get agitated when you forget something. It will get better in time. After the first month of going full throttle, your body will start to get tired. I hate to inform you but it’s stroke fatigue. It will leave you utterly useless after a day. Remember, “I know you are tired. I know you are physically and emotionally drained. But you have to keep going.” - Unknown.
With everything going on in the world weighing heavy on you, it doesn’t take away your passion. You ensure that others around you are emotionally recovering as well. Some won’t divulge how they feel because they lived through it and it’s too traumatic. Don’t be upset over that, because that’s their emotion and their own story to tell in time. You will need to give people space to process the information. Remember,” True empathy requires that you step outside your own emotions to view things entirely from the perspective of the other person.” -Unknown. You will also encounter people that you expected to be in your corner. I will break the news; they do drop off the face of the earth. It will hurt initially, but you step aside and analyze that the ones that really matter are the ones that came to see you or continue to send you encouragement. You will also discover new friendships emerge that are special.
“You don’t know this new me; I put back my pieces differently”-Unknown.
You will change, but it’s better than the old you. There are still pieces of you, but the ones worth keeping like humor and honesty. As time goes on, “You’re gonna be happy, ‘Said life, ‘But first I’ll make you strong”-Unknown. You will become strong and unstoppable. You will look back at this all as I am now, and I’m here to say that I’m a survivor of a medical trauma and I have been through hell and back, but this fire only made me rise. My fire will never blow out, it will grow stronger the more I throw wood into the pile of achievements, motivation, empowering others, healing myself physically and mentally. Lastly, this quote applies to your future self, “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide”- Unknown.
I want others to know, “Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives. -Unknown”. This is the most empowering quote. We shouldn’t forget what happened. It’s imperative that we remember because it’s a fight to remove the control it has on our lives. Become a warrior, show tenacity, become someone that someone else can look up to. It’s not by accident we were saved and given a second chance at life. We were given a second chance to give purpose. How that purpose is used is up to everyone. Don’t play in the creek, when you can swim the ocean. Trust me, I know this is hard. It’s a battle every single day to get on about the day. There are fears the creep up that can tear someone down. Be gentle to yourself but don’t shy away from letting people know how you feel. Words are encouraging. Community is important. I want fellow survivors know that I care for you and want to comfort you and I will always be there. That is my message to myself and to others. Remember, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” — Joshua J. Marine”
“Stay strong, you story isn’t over yet”- Unknown