I never told anybody about this; I just kept it to myself: For almost 7 years, I have put toe spacers in my right shoe so my toes would straighten out. Without them, my toes were crooked.
Then on Dec 26th, I took out the spacers and have been going without them for a week. My toes still feel a little weird , but I am adjusting. So now as you see me walk, you will KNOW that my toes are sort of straight. When you aren’t normal, you don’t want to bring attention to the little things that make your different. Now, I can tell people about it because is in the past.
I know what you are thinking: what other surprises is he keeping from us?
Last week, I got to speak in front of college students.
While I don’t normally get nervous, I was with this group! Oh no: what if I am becoming like ALL the other speakers?
Could this be a fact? I haven’t got nervous since my stroke. What was once a “little benefit” could be gone. While it bothers me a little, I am kind of psyched about getting my old self back. Now before I speak, I won’t be able to eat, I will pace back and forth,…. and I will get chills down my spine. Ok, I won’t do all those things, but I am excited to get my “old self” back.
In 2008 when Gordon was lying in his hospital bed and I was beginning to understand the
severity of Gordon’s stroke, I asked everyone at Rehab what his recovery might look like. I got no answers other than “Every stroke is different” which basically means I got no answers.
It was so frustrating! I desperately needed some frame of reference, some concept of a recovery path that I could learn from. For this reason, I have kept a log of Gordon’s recovery so that when I meet someone in the beginning of their stroke journey, I can say “This is what happened to us.”
Recovery milestones are harder to come by as time goes on. I was thrilled last week to mark a big milestone in Gordon’s recovery 6-1/2 years post-stroke! Swinging BOTH arms while walking is a task we have worked on for years!! It wasn’t that long ago when he couldn’t swing his right arm at all, even when he was standing still and focusing 100% on just swinging his arm.
In addition to the arm swinging excitement, Gordon was shaking hands with people at my speaking engagement yesterday, using his right hand–and no one noticed!!! The fact that no one noticed means it felt NORMAL. Another huge step forward in recovery. Big things are still happening.
After giving my speech last week, an audience member thanked me for talking about how “normal life” changes after a dramatic event. He talked about the realization that “recovery” doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the way things were.
This is an important distinction. In my speech, I talk about Gordon’s and my decision that life was still going to be good after his stroke, even though it was going to be different. When our “normal life” was taken away from us, we chose to embrace the different life we were given.
There is still love and happiness to be had in this different life. Yes, I miss the old life sometimes but I cannot let myself dwell on it. It is gone. We have today and it is good–good but different.