Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Imagination Rehab

The are many things I can't do since the stroke. For instance, I know that riding a bicycle is out of the question. At least for now. My lack of proprioception, sensation, balance issues,  and general right-side weakness are a few of the reasons. And it doesn't help that we live on a very hilly neighborhood. I haven't even had the desire to try.

About two months ago, we were driving on level ground, on a road with a bike lane. There was a bicyclist a few yards ahead of us, and from the car window, I had a great view of the bicyclist pedaling. The traffic was moving slowly. I watched him biking for several minutes. Suddenly, I remembered what it felt like to be on a bicycle: the wind, the noise of cars going by, the pedaling, the gliding, my own breath and the pumping of my heart. I had forgotten.

Sometimes I feel the stroke robbed me--temporarily--of parts of my imagination. Until something jogs my memory, my body can't conceive of some of things I used to do. And how I did them.

But little by little, my imagination is coming back. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Very Good Prognosis

My sister knows how devastating the stroke has been, for me and my whole family. She’s been a rock of strength and support. But every so often, when we’ve talked about how hard it’s been, she would also remind me: I’m on the upswing. It’s not like, say, cancer, she would say.

Well, in January I was diagnosed with cancer—sort of. It's a kind of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (D.C.I.S.), often called stage 0. It’s not one of the kinds of scary cancer my sister was thinking about. There is even some controversy about if it should be even called cancer (I like this NY Times article). D.C.I.S. is almost never life-threatening.

But it’s been a long four months since the diagnosis, and figuring out what to do about it. The fear that comes with the word “cancer” is one thing. The fatigue of entering back to the medical (and bureaucratic) world is a whole different story. It has felt so cruel: finally I had enough energy and fluency to chat with other parents at the playground, but now I needed to put my energy in talking to doctors about treatment options. Also, most of the doctors and medical people have been nice, but they haven’t seen many mid-life stroke survivors. At the appointments, sometimes I wanted to say: do you know how much energy this is costing me? Do I really have to change into the examining gown this time? Because I might have the energy to change into and out of the gown, or make dinner this evening, but probably not both.

Fortunately, this chapter of my saga is closed for now. I had minor surgery, and I can go back to focus on stroke recovery.

The really weird thing is this: I seem to be getting better all the time, despite everything. Maybe the diagnosis forced me to talk and write even more. Maybe my brain fog has been better because I've had to strategize about how to explain my issues before every appointment. Maybe I have even more of a sense of urgency about my stroke recovery.

 Who knows? Or maybe my brain was just ready to get better.