Tai Chi for Stroke Recovery 

I’m about 6 years post-hemorrhagic stroke. I am constantly looking for new ways to get therapy, which is beyond the traditional therapy. Traditional therapy has just gotten boring, and I tend to not keep it up at home. I like fun therapy!!

 Last year I did pool therapy, and I really liked it! It’s just hard to swim in the winter. I really wanted to do something different. 

 So last October, we joined our local Recreation Center, which also includes a Senior Center. The Rec Center has an indoor pool, every kind of workout equipment, and lots of exercise classes.

 After trying the pool, I just couldn’t keep swimming there because the water wasn’t warm enough for me. So I decided to try some classes. In the Senior Center!! Yup! I figured that would be my speed! The age for the Senior Center starts at 50, so I fit the bill!

 The first class I tried was Chair Yoga. It was fun! Very challenging for me! Apparently not too challenging for the 94 year old lady in class!! Actually all of the class could do the yoga! Except me! I’m not usually one to compare myself to others, but it was glaringly obvious that I was struggling in class. I’m also not one to give up, but it was just TOO tough! A little bit tough is good, but TOO tough is frustrating and not productive.

So, next I tried the Tai Chi class. I used to do martial arts, and my husband still does jujutsu and taiko drumming. I still feel surrounded by martial arts with our dojo friends, too. So Tai Chi is another martial art! I LOVED the first class! It’s physically challenging in a good way! I love the calmness that I feel in class. I work hard to get my right side to cooperate, but nobody knows that I’m trying hard! That’s a good thing! Any time I feel like I blend in with others, I feel great! When class is over in an hour, I feel so good!!! Tired, but good!!

 Tai Chi is slow. It can take years to “get it”! There are so many intricate details that one might not get for years. I love that!! That’s how it was in jujutsu! So that’s what I know to be true about martial arts. Tai Chi follows that philosophy. The teacher is really good! She believes that she is also the student. She doesn’t expect perfection. She expects us to try, and do our best that day. It’s Tai Chi for Diabetes, so it’s a slower class than her other classes, which is why I signed up. I don’t have diabetes, and neither do some of the other people in class, but I’m sure some have other issues, too.

 I’m so glad that I’ve found this class in the Senior Center. I look forward to going every week! It’s something that I know will always be a part of my life. I’m not sure that I’m physically stronger because of Tai Chi yet, but I’m pretty sure I will be stronger with time. Some day, I’ll try that Chair Yoga class again, too! Haha!

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Five Years After My Stroke

It’s been a little over 5 years since my stroke. It seems like my right side is weaker than it used to be. My day-to-day activities aren’t enough to build up the strength in the muscles. The brain signals are probably weak to the muscles, and I feel it! So, the doctor has recommended pool therapy this time.
Bryan and I were thinking that pool therapy would be good for me, and we bought a 4 ft pool to set up in the backyard. We haven’t put it up yet, because there’s a lot of preparation to the yard that needs to happen before it can go up. So hopefully soon this can happen. 
In the meantime, I went to my first pool therapy session. It was so crazy! First off, walking into the pool, I realized that I had very little control of my right leg, once I was in water above my knees. I actually felt like it was right after the stroke when I was learning how to walk again. My leg was very uncoordinated, and I really couldn’t feel my leg! I spent a few minutes walking along the side of the pool in about 3 ft of water while my therapist finished with her other patient. At one point, I even wondered if I was having another stroke, because that’s how it felt! After her initial evaluation of me, we started to do a few exercises that she had to keep modifying because I just was unable to do them! She was very surprised that I couldn’t do them, and even at one point asked me if I walked with a walker or cane! Haha! No, I can walk, just not in the water! It was crazy, and so hard, that I just couldn’t believe it! It was a real challenge!
I will also be starting physical therapy in a regular therapy setting in a building. They call it “land therapy”! So one day a week for land therapy, and one day a week of water therapy.
I hope to build up my strength on my right side, and wake up the muscles that don’t seem to be getting the brain signal to work.
After we get our pool set up, I will use it daily, and do the exercises that I’m learning from going to therapy.
I enjoy going to therapy! It’s hard, and it’s very tiring, but I like it! It’s fun, in a serious way! It’s all about learning to strengthen your body, and all of the different and creative ways to make that happen.
Therapists are awesome! In the 5 years since my stroke, I’ve had quite a few Therapists, and they all have done things differently. It’s so interesting! I like to have fun, but seriously do the work. I love how they see all of the little things with the muscles and the way the body moves. They see the details, while also seeing the whole thing.
When I was growing up, we almost always had a pool. I love the water! I’ve always been a good swimmer, and have felt very comfortable in the water. This new water therapy has shown me that I have a long way to go, to feeling comfortable in the water. I have a new goal now, to get to where I feel good and coordinated and comfortable in the water. It’ll happen! Hopefully soon! It’s all good!

My Fourth Strokiversary

Well, not only is it Pi Day, but it’s the 4th Anniversary of my hemorrhagic stroke. It’s my “Strokiversary”! I’ve come a long way in 4 years! Today, for me, is a day to celebrate, almost like a birthday. I felt like my life changed 4 years ago, and I started my new way of life.
Life for me is really good! I wake up thankful, live each day in a positive way, and go to bed thankful every night. I don’t take things for granted, and I don’t sweat the small stuff. I no longer get to worry or stress out on things. I have very reactive blood pressure, and very quickly can be reminded of that if I get stressed.
Since my stroke was caused from high blood pressure, it is the one thing that I can’t let get out of control, or I could have another stroke. I will do everything in my power to avoid another stroke. So, I avoid stressful situations. I have additional prescriptions that I can take if my BP goes too high, and it can bring it down 40 points in about 20 mins. There are side effects, so I don’t like having to take them, but when necessary, I do what I have to do.
Aside from the blood pressure problems, I basically have right-side weakness, and balance issues. My back fatigues very fast when doing the same task for a short while. Then I will feel like I can’t hold my head up. I can walk about 1 to 1 1/2 miles. The bursitis in my hips is bad. My bicep, tricep, and trapezoid are very atrophied, which causes problems trying to keep my arm up. My hand is weak, with thumb and forefinger very weak and uncoordinated. Writing is still a challenge, and still can’t write cursive. Speech can be jumbled if I talk too fast. Short-term memory issues, but not too severe. Those are my basic physical challenges, which is why I tell people that I am about 80-85% back to normal. Usually I don’t talk about what I CAN’T DO, I focus on what I CAN DO. Most people just looking at me can’t even tell I’ve had a stroke. I love that! But I get asked all the time, “What is still wrong with you?”. So that’s it in a nutshell. If you really watch me do something, you would see the problems, especially if you spent a day with me.
My husband sees it all, and is very protective of me because he knows what happens when I try to push it. I respect him for that, and love him so deeply. He has helped me with my recovery immensely. He is a very good person, and I am thankful  to have him for my husband. We will celebrate our 30th Anniversary this year!!
My kids are wonderful people, and I love my time with them every day, whether in person or on the phone. I have an amazing family and relatives, and the best friends a person could ever wish for.
This year Bryan and I want to start our foundation for stroke recovery, so stay tuned for that!
I have a nice life. I don’t focus on my deficits, but still try to work on strengthening the different body parts by doing creative things.
Today, I will make a pie for Pi Day, and I will have a glass of champagne to celebrate my 4th “Strokiversary”. Cheers!

What Do You Learn When Things Are Easy

I seem to pick tasks that seem to be easy, but turn out to be difficult. Sometimes I forget that I still have disabilities from the stroke. Then I am quickly reminded, and my “easy” task turns into “therapy”. Besides, what do you learn when things are easy? Not much!
When I first came home from the hospital after the stroke, I was paralyzed on one side, and everything was a new experience in living life that way. I am stubborn, so I wanted to push through the difficulties without help. Ha! Initially, I needed help with everything. Within the first year, I was doing most things by myself. Some things better than others! Intense weakness has replaced the paralysis. When I would be doing something that was too hard, and someone would try to help, I would say that it was therapy for me and I had to keep trying. There were also times that I’d try to get Bryan or the kids to take over what I felt was too hard, and they would say “No, it’s therapy!” Haha! They never let me get away with quitting! They did learn that there are limits to that, though! They are still very helpful, and I am thankful for them!
What started me thinking about all of this today, was a recipe that I chose to make. I bought a new cookbook called “Quick and Easy Dump Cakes”. The title had me assume that all of the recipes in the book were easy. A dump cake is a cake where you dump a box of this, and a can of that, into a pan and bake. No mixers involved, and not very much measuring, either. Simple! So, I read every recipe, and decided to make apple bars. It wasn’t a cake, but a cake mix is used in the recipe. It sounded so good!!
Well, after I started cutting the hard butter into cubes, I was ready to be done, and I had just started!! Then, I had to use a pastry blender, which is a tool that cuts the butter into the dry ingredients to make them into a crumbly texture. My right hand very quickly gave out because of the shoulder and back action that it takes to do that task. So, my left hand took over. Then I thought, this is therapy. Back to the right hand to mix. Right hand, left hand, right hand. It was so hard to do!!!!
I finally got it to the correct consistency, and then I had to add an egg. Seems easy, right? WRONG! At this point, my non-swearing self wanted to start swearing! But, I always say that people can “feel” what you put in to what you make. So I bake with love, and people feel that love when they eat whatever I make. If I started swearing and getting frustrated, then people would feel that when they ate the apple bars. So I put on my happy face, said it was more therapy, and I got through it using both of my bare hands. Then I was really happy to be putting it in the oven!
They finished baking, cooled a little, and I had to try one. They’re pretty good, but not something that I’ll make very often. I think I’ll try a dump cake next time!
I like it that people can’t tell that I’ve had a stroke. But then it’s hard when I cant go somewhere, or participate in a function because of the stroke, and I feel like they don’t understand. I know my limits, and I can only do what I can do. My body quickly tells me, in one way or another. Sometimes it’s physically, and sometimes it’s internally. My blood pressure may shoot up with or without warning.
So, I plug along, and continue to find the therapy in things that are difficult. I remind myself, and now I remind you, what do you learn when things are easy? Not much! So, embrace the difficult things with a smile, and know that you are learning something. But know your limits, too!
I’m happy to be back on my blog, and I’m thankful that you’re reading it! Life is really good!!

Three Years Post Stroke

On March 14, 2014, I will celebrate 3 years of surviving a hemorrhagic stroke! Not a day has gone by without me thinking how lucky I am, and I’m so thankful!! Having a stroke has changed my life! I’ve said before how my life was instantly put into perspective. There’s no sweating the small stuff anymore. I’m OK with that! It’s all good!
My biggest challenge is endurance and strength. I can physically do most things, but maybe only for a second, minute, or an hour on a good day. My back and arm are so weak that they just give out. Having blood pressure issues on top of that, makes doing things a challenge. So I tend to look at my daily tasks as therapy. It’s all therapy!
Last year I did outpatient occupational and physical therapy for 3 months. I learned a lot, and I try to apply what I learned in my everyday life. I keep trying to stimulate my brain in all different ways. The bleed from the stroke destroyed that part of the brain.  So everything I do on my right side is a new pathway that was created in order to do that function.
My physical therapist had me doing a few yoga poses, but they were a little too hard for me. She wanted me to work on it. So I am going to try yoga again on the Wii. That will be worth some laughs!! Haha!
My husband received an invitation to a corporate event through the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association. When he replied by phone to reserve his seat, they wanted to know what his connection is to them. So he told them about me and my stroke. Now they want us to speak about it to a group of people, and tell my story. How many people? I don’t know, and I don’t want to know! Haha! I am excited to do it, but nervous to speak to a crowd. Bryan has no problem speaking, and he will be talking the most. We have two events this month. Then there’s an event in Sacramento on September 18th and 21st that will be yoga, and a walk. I just found out that I’ll be demonstrating yoga! I really better get on that Wii now! Haha! I hope to see my friends and family there!
Once again I’d like to thank Bryan for being my amazing husband and caregiver. I have come this far because you have helped me, and you believe in me! You’ve been there for every step of this journey, and I appreciate everything you do! I love you so much!! I’d also like to thank my kids for being my inspiration every day, and for all the laughter! You both are just the best kids ever!! I love you both more than anything!! My mom and dad are also my strength. They have also done this journey and give me inspiration all the time. I love you both for everything! You’re the best! To the rest of my family, Bryan’s family, my relatives, and friends, I sincerely thank you for your caring ways, prayers, inspiration, laughs, love, and for playing computer games with me! I am eternally grateful, and I love you all!

My life is in perspective and positive

When I experienced having a stroke, that moment changed my life forever! Initially, every moment was spent on survival. Even though I wasn’t consciously thinking that, reflecting back I realize that I was in survival mode. I know that I had a choice to live or die, but I can’t recall the moment that it happened or the details to that experience. Later on, improving my condition became my focus.
I have always had the ability to find the good in the bad, and to always see the bright side of things. I believe that being positive is the key to making possibilities happen, when the odds are against you. I also believe that not knowing how bad the outlook is, is a good thing. I also am thankful that I never had any doctor, nurse, therapist, family member, or friend, tell me that anything with my recovery would be impossible. It seemed as though I was surrounded by positive people! I never knew, until much later, that the odds were against me! I always knew that I’d improve! I knew it!! There was no doubt, because I didn’t know to have doubt. I beat the odds!!
My life was instantly put in perspective the moment that the stroke happened. I am always aware of what is important in life now. That feeling doesn’t go away. Not that I wasn’t aware of that before the stroke, but now it’s the focus of my thinking and actions. There’s no other way to be, as far as I’m concerned. There’s no “sweating the small stuff”. If something can’t be done with love, then it shouldn’t happen. Life is about love and happiness. Yes, I can still get mad or frustrated, but I quickly let it go. It is not worth it to have stress, because stress affects the body and health. We are in control of ourselves. I won’t do anything to jeopardize my health, or anyone else’s health.
I view my life now as a gift. I want to help other stroke survivors, and people who need a touch of positive in their life when faced with a long recovery. As my strength and stamina continue to improve, my thoughts are shifting into helping others, and how to go about doing that on any scale. Getting back on my blog is a start.
My husband is my rock, and he is amazing! He has helped me most with my recovery, because he has been there almost 24/7, and knows what it takes to do life now. My kids keep me humble and laughing all the time, and they are always on my mind. They are so positive and happy, and I appreciate their fun personalities. My family and friends give me strength to keep pushing forward.
I have a deep sense of calm, and I look forward to my future and old age. I will do it one day at a time, with a smile!

Brain Chatter During and After a Stroke

I want to talk about brain chatter, to maybe make people aware of what might be going through someone’s mind during and after a stroke. Witnessing a person having a stroke can be scary. Every stroke is different, so you never know what will happen. I will tell you my story of my brain chatter, but it may or may not apply to others. However, it’s knowledge that can’t hurt to know.
Most of you know the story, and for newcomers, please read the first story of my blog for details. Basically, I was at The Fairmont Hotel for a luncheon for my dear sweet friend’s 90th birthday. I was the only 48 year old attending with all much-older women, and I was the one carried off on a stretcher! Haha! Funny now, and it was kinda funny then, too!
When the stroke started, my face drooped on one side. I was thinking that something was wrong, but was also fascinated by how much one side of my face could sag. I could feel it!! I never saw it. When I got up to go to the restroom, I wasn’t walking right. In my head I was thinking ~ uh oh, this isn’t good. When my hand couldn’t make my phone work, I thought ~ this is a stroke, and I need help so I can get to a hospital for one of those shots to reverse strokes. If I was really thinking right, I would have put the phone in my left hand, and could have dialed it. I saw David, who is the son-in-law of my friend the birthday girl. I called him over, and when I started talking I didn’t recognize my voice and slurred speech. Fortunately, he had been with his dad during his stroke, and recognized the same speech and slurring with me. While I was sitting and waiting for the ambulance, I actually thought ~ how funny that I’m the youngest one at the party, and I’m leaving in an ambulance! I also thought ~ wow, I’m so calm! I thought that a LOT! I had a history of having my blood pressure go up when it was being taken at the Dr office, and I was thinking ~ huh, I don’t think my BP is going to go up this time, because I’m so calm! Well, my BP was already at least 285/185! I didn’t know it, and didn’t feel it.
David was keeping my husband and parents abreast of my condition, by phone. He was also very calm. The waitress sitting with me, who was a nursing student (and I thought ~ what are the odds of that happening) was also calm.
When I got in the ambulance, I asked where my purse was. Haha! My purse has everything in it! I could win the old Let’s Make A Deal show when he’d ask the ladies at the end, for odd things in their purse! David had it, and was sitting in the front seat. I was thinking how nice he is to stay with me. Speech was worse at this point, so I was choosing to not talk. I wasn’t thinking too much, either. My brain was quiet, without much chatter going on.
In the ER, there was so much commotion going on with nurses and DR’s doing their jobs. I was thinking ~ hurry up and give me that shot! Well, then they told me that I don’t get the shot. It was a hemorrhagic stroke, and my brain was bleeding. They prepared me for possible surgery. In my head I was thinking ~ no, I don’t need surgery because it stopped bleeding. Why did I think that, I don’t know. When I told that to the nurse, she acted like I was crazy, and said that I couldn’t know that. I still kept thinking it, and guess what, I was right!
I still didn’t think too much. I mostly thought about things in reaction to what was going on.
When I realized that I was paralyzed on my right side, it felt like I was moving my right side, but I wasn’t! I thought ~ this is what people feel when they lose a limb!
In the days following, my memory was a little weird. I couldn’t always remember words. Bryan was a great mind-reader, and he would fill in the blanks. I remember thinking things, but couldn’t say them. In my head, I was fine. Then to put things together, was a challenge. But I knew that words weren’t coming out right, because in my head I was thinking clear! I learned to slow down my talking and I could be understood better.
The brain chatter was there, but not constant. My new world was pretty quiet. I think that’s why I needed it quiet in my room. I needed people to be calm. No visitors, especially no high energy people. I was so aware of people’s energy! It could be instant overload! And it showed in my blood pressure!
I mostly had patient nurses. They were so happy with my progress, and were mostly very helpful. I never really stopped talking, and I think that helped me. My stroke was in the left basal ganglia which mostly controls speech and coordination.
I’ve read other stroke stories where people can’t talk at all, and they are treated like they are dumb, or babies. I’m here to say, the brain still thinks! The problem is getting the thought from the brain to the mouth! That’s where it goes haywire! Sometimes, the information isn’t in the accessible brain area, so relearning things is the only option. I’ve experienced that, too. Thank goodness for the ability to rewire your own brain!
It’s important to treat stroke survivors with calm, patient energy. No need to talk in a condescending tone or manner. Chances are, they’re still thinking normally, but can’t make the words happen. Have patience! The brain still knows things! In a lot of ways, it knows and feels even more that ever! Never underestimate the stroke survivor!