Updated: May 24
I’ve always felt that I was destined for something great. Most of us dream that don’t we? I teetered on so many different things as I was growing up. I wanted to join the Marines, become a graphic art designer, be in the fashion industry, and mostly, a lawyer. I was on the debate team in high school to prep myself to learn how to argue and see both sides. If you see both sides then you know how to attack your opponent. I’ve always had a fascination with law and continue to this day to educate myself. I argued with my teachers endlessly in political classes. I have knack to never give into what society wants me to think and will drive someone batty with how I feel. I get it from my family. We gathered like a traditional family in the evening and ate dinner together. We didn’t talk about how our day went, we talked politics. All this political talk since childhood lead me to join the young (will not say which political party) group. So, in high school, I debated with myself if I want to serve my country, become creative, be a lawyer, or get into politics. My father’s side of the family were lawyers, so maybe it was supposed to be destined.
Sadly, I didn’t pursue any of these dreams. I decided at 18 the I wanted full independence and moved out working day and night. College was out the door and crippled the potential and dreams I had. Eventually I landed in the medical field, and on June it will mark 18 years of service. It wasn’t the path I ever thought of, even though my mom told me to be a nurse (still won’t be one). At 28 I went back to college to get a degree in order to back up my hands-on knowledge. You know, the best kind. There is something different having your nose in the books and releasing you into the world versus, boots on the ground learning every single facet possible by hands on experience. Still that has crippled me in some ways. While I possess knowledge and understanding and have ideas, I’m not matched compared to others. It’s something that still bothers and grinds me to this day.
I made a bold career move from a family oriented, caring private practice, whom I still love to this day to the corporate world. I wanted to dabble into the tech side of healthcare. It’s something I’m proud of and happy they took a chance on me. I’m part of a group that is responsible for Intelligence. Each person on my team amazes me with how innovative they are. Then I look at myself and a small seed of self-doubt enters and asks how the heck did I get into this position. I remind myself, not of vanity or narcissism, that I am smart. At work (might drive some crazy) I go back to my youth and remember to press the issue, so it’s heard. I go back to debate and remember both sides of the coin- health technology and healthcare providers. Listen, whether we’ve made great strides in tech, there will always be resistance from providers because it’s uncharted. That’s something to be understood, which I experienced when my previous company went from paper to electronic health records. I’m sure they are flourishing now compared to the learning curve that I left. When I go to doctor appointments and they ask what I do, they look at me as the enemy. I get it, your nose is in the computer. It’s not the tech companies doing this to you. It’s the rules and regulations in place that force them to do all this work. We strive to ease that burden. So, I’ve utilized the debate skills listening to both side of the industries and try form a cohesive understanding. So, although I didn’t become this great lawyer, I’m still utilizing those skills.
Now, I’m sure you are wondering how this correlates with a stroke. I will tell you. After a stroke, or even a major life event, you begin to ponder about your self-worth and what you have to offer. For me, I asked myself if there is more to offer than what I’m doing that can make a difference. Is it too late? The answer is no. I think there is a sub-group of people that think we are on a timeline and if you hit a mark on a timeline, it’s too late to make a change.
This isn’t a resignation from my company, far from it. I want to continue what I’m doing but I want to sprinkle some empowering endeavors to make a difference. I began thinking how a person such as myself, not known to many, can make a difference. I started small. I did what most people do and began blogging. I didn’t know if it would get a single hit or several. Either way, it’s there for people to understand one person’s perspective of life after stroke. I began to expand it to emotional welfare for people outside the stroke world too. The common denominator is struggle. If I can humanize the struggle, by stripping my emotional self-down, then maybe I can help someone.
After blogging, I felt empowered, and wanted to do more. I signed up as a volunteer for every stroke foundation possible. Then I began to think, ok, you’ve signed up but what do you want to do with this. I outlined how I want to contribute to society in a positive light. I won’t hold myself to this outline, because if there is a setback, I don’t want to feel like a failure. However, it’s not in my nature to not finish what I want. So here is a rough draft of just a few things that I have thought of to give back.
Grassroots campaign- champion more research about strokes. I discovered after reading endless medical journal, that there is not enough evidence or research done on predictive models, recovery, life expectancy, post-symptoms and reoccurrences. Yes, there has been research, and yes there are many gifted neurologist and neurosurgeons, and cardiologist. My itch is based on life after stroke, and the need for more research on how a seemingly healthy person can suffer. Are there precursors, that are evidence based that show high-risk. We all know that age, smoking, hypertension, obesity and so forth are common denominators, for anything but I feel that there is much more to it. I will give you an example for myself. At 21 I suddenly developed migraines that became debilitating. I began to have neurological issues and saw several specialists. All of them did an MRI, but not with contrast. That’s key. I joked, which isn’t funny anymore, that I felt that I was on the brink of a stroke because it was bad. I was correct. The ruptured aneurysm happened to be in the exact location of my migraines. I’m not a physician so whether these two go hand and hand, I don’t know, but that’s the point of needing more research. Then as I move on with life, I have different physical differences and emotions. I investigate it and while it’s acknowledged, it’s prefaced with not enough research. Why is the research lacking? Therefore, I want to get involved in a grassroots campaign.
Public Speaking- I shudder with public speaking on certain subjects and thrive on others. Kind of contradictive since I stated I wanted to be a lawyer. The difference is, I feel comfortable when I have information, or in this case life experience to speak of. I see groups exist out there that serve like alcohol anonymous where you share your experience and do arts and crafts. While that’s great, there is a massive group of people that use social media platforms to try to understand what’s happening and what to expect now they are feeling it. I want to be that voice, to let all stroke victims know that we still have power. We might have lost some capabilities, but we’ve gained some in place. We thrive, we make the best of what we can, we teach ourselves how to operate on a different level. The most important aspect of public speaking for me is tapping into the emotional side. I’ve touched on this in previous post that emotions are stigmatized. Some people don’t want to be taxing to their loved ones or viewed as weak. This can’t and should not happen. Part of healing is becoming vulnerable, allowing the emotions to pour out. You deserve it. You went through hell. I want to be a champion to myself, but most of all a champion to others. When we are a community, in an open format, with the ability to physically see each other it’s different. It’s a personal human connection.
Podcast- For the times that I can’t go out and speak, I want to connect to people through a podcast. I will go over topics that are real, and hope to engage and encourage others to share their stories. This will give a platform for people to open about things that other might not be aware of.
Writing a book- I don’t classify myself as an excellent writer, and I’m sure my blogs are flawed with errors. Forgive me, I’m still trying to grasp my grammar skills post-stroke. I hope that I can construct a book with pieces of my blog with additions for people to read about the raw side of a stroke. There are plenty of great books that exist, but some that I’ve viewed gloss over the hard part, because they are doing what they want to do- make you feel good. I want to give you the raw, gritty, awful side of what a stroke is and life after. Then I want to show how to overcome these normal feelings and empower yourself and feel like a warrior. You don’t want to pick up a book about a man’s time in the war and read that they were there, and how life was after. You want to read what happened during that time in war that lead them to how they got to the point they are at.
Patient Advocacy- I want to use my experience and assist others with all the red tape that goes along with a healthcare crisis. I want a loved one to reach out to me and say, listen my wife, husband, or family member had a stroke so what are the next steps to get things rolling. From experience, I was out of it. I had no clue what to do with contacting my job, getting short term disability rolling, FMLA. My husband had to figure that all out. We learned as we went. We thought about alert systems and placed them around the house for cases when I was left alone. I got a medical bracelet to note that I had a VP shunt just in case another emergency took place. There are so many things on a checklist to get your ducks in order from who to contact, finances etc. If I can be of service to assist people with what their next steps are to ease their burden so they can focus on what’s important, then that’s how I want to help. If there are any roadblocks, then I will be your advocate.
Life Coach- I signed up as a life coach. I didn’t realize there are different choices to get certified in. You can be a master of all or pick subjects you feel compelled to coach. I selected happiness. In some part, I am hoping as I learn, that it will help me with my own happiness. Essentially, I see so many people suffer with happiness, and I feel like I was given a second chance in life to help people see the light. Happiness is not material or success. It’s a state of mind. You can have nothing or have it all, but if happiness is with you, it makes you strive, and it can push you and make you feel comfortable being still. I know that I could use a life coach at this moment. Not a therapist, although that is suggested. I want that push that I’ve got this, and you are on tract, be mindful, and find peace in life. With stroke victims, or should I say people who are emotionally struggling, you need that coach to give you that push to be accountable.
Overall, I’m approaching 40 and I feel like I’m not done with my potential. I feel like I’m on the relm of possibility. I’ve always been a strong woman, never submissive, or stayed quiet with my opinions. I’m thankful, I have a husband, family and friends that don’t make me feel otherwise. I feel like there is always something that can be better or something that needs to be tapped into. This is a work in progress, and it won’t happen overnight because I’m still healing. For now, I will take the baby steps with my side passion projects. I also need to be real with myself that I have a job and that’s priority one, but I’m empowered, and I will eventually figure out a way to balance them out.
The lesson I want everyone to learn is that no matter what state you are in from being complacent, going through emotional stress, dealing with medical issues, life issues, there are things you can do that will give you back power which is having a voice. Don’t ever keep things in because you are scared. Don’t ever hold back because you think you can’t do it or maybe you have hit a point in your life that you think it’s too late. Until the very last breath you take, you will have emotions, stories, and words of wisdom. Don’t dim your light. Crush the darkness and say no.
Lastly, I want to add with all the positive talk, I admit I’m at a constant struggle where I’m happy and then something will happen that changes it. So, this isn’t a piece about holding hands and dancing around in the sun. It’s about grasping reality, making changes, and turning the moments of sadness into something happy. It’s a life balance.