Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Loss of a Friend

One of the ladies I met at The Stroke Recovery Association passed away suddenly last week. We attended group physiotherapy together at SAM. I saw her most weeks at a group lunch and it is only 2 weeks since we were together.

I went to her funeral and it was good to see the number of SAM members that attended, especially since it is the holiday break and it was simply by word of mouth that the sad news was shared.

Her siblings and children told stories about her life and what she was like. They talked about what a wonderful mother and what a creative woman she was and they talked about how patient she was. I never knew the athletic, business woman they were describing.

I did recognize the description of a kind, gentle , hardworking woman because that sure did describe the lady that I spent time with at SAM. They described her perseverance, optimism and patience in the face of adversity and her struggles since her stroke 10 years ago.

I wish I could have known Sandra longer, but I am glad to have shared the time with her that I did. We will all remember her smile.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I have a new Physiotherapist

I have had two meetings with my new physiotherapist.

The first one was a conversation about what I want to accomplish with Physiotherapy and about my medical history. I found myself telling my life history and saying that I want to be really fit for the first time in my life. Loft goals perhaps. I didn't manage to pull that off before I got ill.

Meeting number two was added in last week to do a physical assessment in particular the balance assessments. I got kind of upset the night before the appointment and hardly slept. Then I was being really tense during the assessment and I wonder how much that threw it all off. At any rate, I am pretty sure I scored worse than that last time with my former therapist. Maybe he is just a tougher marker. I absolutely know that I am functioning better than I was during the summer and I don't feel dizzy and nauseated anywhere near as often. I am going the right direction with recovery.

I do like the new PT so far and look forward to seeing what the new plan is in January. I also have some plans for getting more exercise in during the New Year.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

I love holiday time but it can be tough.

There is a lot of fun this time of year, such as the Stroke Recovery Association Christmas Party. How could it be anything but great when you get to take Santa home with you at the end of the evening?

I do find that my expectation's for what I can do are often not realistic. I keep making holiday plans as if nothing has changed but then I keep running into walls and feeling let down.

Today is a good example. My daughter had a short recital this morning for her music students at a local mall. I am very proud of the kids. They put a hat out and played a little recital for family, friends and passersby and they are donating the money to the Children's Wish Foundation.
Next we had lunch with My daughter and her friend followed by a bit of shopping. We were not shopping for very long before my leg was going out from under me and I was exhausted. I insisted we go home and rest for a while before continuing with buying gifts. Well, we are still home and the stores are now closed. I just don't have much stamina anymore.

My kitchen counter has a container with all the dry ingredients for fruit cake all measured out. It has been sitting there for 5 days now. And I actually love fruitcake!

We had plans for decorating our Christmas tree tomorrow, but I have put it off to next weekend in the hopes that I will have more energy.

I am glad to report that I am getting better at asking for help. The first year after my stroke I was devastated that I couldn't do much for the holidays, but my family really pulled all the most important things together and we let go what wasn't needed. They really managed to organize themselves and share the holiday workload.

With all the negatives of something like a stroke there are some good things too. You do figure out what is really important to you and you learn to appreciate the support and love of the people in your life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Lion and the Thorn

My finger is finally healed over. Thank-goodness! It has been an open wound for 4 full months!

I am supposed to be very careful not to do anything to scrape the healing area or break the skin and I have to use a special cream designed to encourage healing after a trauma or dermatological procedures.

I saw the "finger" physiotherapist today and that is going well too. I am still going to need more therapy, but my middle joint is moving comfortably now and the top joint is starting to bend a bit and I have a new sheet of exercises. Everything looks good for my finger's full recovery.

My stroke affected left hand is being stronger now because I have been using it more due to pain in the right hand. It is obvious that it is worth the effort to keep trying to improve the function in my hand. Now all I need is a plan on how to work on it!

I feel like the lion with the thorn in his paw. It is amazing that all of this is because of a little thorn in my finger!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crutches and Canes

I went with to my daughter's physiotherapy appointment today. She is 9 weeks past her awful accident and out of her cast now. Her broken ankle and her ribs are feeling better. She still needs to be on crutches and she is starting to put a little weight on her foot.

Emily's physiotherapist was talking about how she wants to get my daughter moving as soon as possible to prevent secondary problems from an unnatural gait; things like back and hip problems and to get her off the crutches because they can be hard on her arms and shoulders. She said once Emily is weight bearing on her foot there will be a whole lot more work they can start to do.

What can you do after about 2 and a half years of a lopsided gait?

Things are getting better for me too. I find that I can take off walking at a good pace as long as I have my cane in hand, and I can celebrate that I have only needed to use my walker twice in the past two months. I do live with my left leg cramping, tired ankle and a bit of a limp. My right hip hurts as soon as I walk more than a few feet. I will be getting a new physiotherapist at Easy Street soon and I think I have found a few new issues to work out.

There is a free dance class at the In Motion @ The Library this week...
I don't think I am ready to Zumba Dance quite yet, but I trust anything is possible in the future. For the moment maybe I can learn to walk a little less lopsided.

Look out Fred Astaire... I have a cane and know how to use it. Maybe I will get a top hat for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On Bubbles and Forcefields

I saw a link to this video on the American Stroke Association's latest online Magazine edition; Stroke Connection December 2010.

What a wonderful view this lady has! She is a survivor and she is not taking it for granted!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Video- My name is Lisa

The stress on the family is tremendous when a member is affected by cognitive impairment.
This is a very moving video.

Here is a link to the Canadian Alzheimer's Organization. This is a very good site with lots of useful info on Brain Awareness and Healthy Brain advice that is a little more generic and reaches beyond Alzheimer issues.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Finger Physiotherapy?

I have made some progress with my sore finger at last.

Last week I saw the plastic surgeon on Monday and two days later I was at the hospital for his clinic time and he removed the tumor! It was quick. He froze it and then he cut it off below the skin and put in two stitches and warned me not to remove the bandages and not to get it wet.

Two days ago I went for the follow-up appointment and we unwrapped it. The tumor was already growing back and out between the stitches. It wasn't totally unexpected but I was upset that this isn't over already. The plastic surgeon cauterized it with a silver nitrate stick and I am supposed to do that myself every second day for the next two weeks and come back then and see how it is doing. In the meantime I am being sent for physiotherapy for my finger.

I had my first "finger" physio appointment today. The therapist looked at the finger and looked at how much movement I had in the joints. The tumor is right at the joint of my middle finger on my right hand and with the pain of touching it I have not been moving it much and I am being very careful not to bump it. My top joint is pretty much frozen and the middle joint is certainly not moving properly.

She tried to get me to use my left hand to exert gentle pressure on the right hand and finger but it quickly became obvious that wasn't the best idea. My left hand does moves now but it is pretty weak, however when I put any pressure on it gets spastic. Not a great plan to have my own hand gripping down for all it is worth on the sore finger and not be able to release it. She also commented on how having my "good" hand out of commission is being very good for my left hand's improvement. Yep. I really do see some improvement in my left hand and arm but this is not a method I would recommend!

I have finger physio exercises to do ever 2 hours and I have two more appointments booked for next week. In the meantime I look like I have quite the attitude because I am walking around with my bandaged middle finger sticking up in the air.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Decision Making Yet Again

This business of making decisions is hard!

It is difficult to even accept that I have a problem with something so basic to living a productive life. This makes it hard to work on the topic. I always feel pretty normal right until something goes wrong and then it smacks me right between the eyes that I am not functioning like I used to.

We solve problems and make decisions everyday and do it all day long. We make decisions about home and about recreation and about shopping at stores. What shall we have for dinner? How to pick the correct groceries. How to hire roofers to do work on your house. There are medical decisions, job decisions, and even decisions about your love life!

I think one little paragraph I read might just make a big difference to me. According to the Brain Injury Resource site:
Avoid making decisions when you are tired, hungry, or under stress or pressure of any sort. On such occasions, your ability to make sound decisions might be compromised by such overlaying factors. It is better to take more time to arrive at a decision than to live with the consequences of an ill-advised one. Set a realistic time line for your response and stick to it; or if necessary, renegotiate it. Bottom line, do not allow yourself to be rushed into a decision that you are not prepared to make. Then as usual, before you make your decision, collect and refine essential information concerning the decision or options before you act.
I think this is all about how I am going to have to learn to adjust my life. Things are not the same and I should not expect life to be the same. Spontaneous is really hard to do now. Planning is necessary.

The first decision should be to be prepared before you start making other choices.
When or where is it is an optimal situation to make the decision?
I need to plan to be rested.
I need to plan to give myself enough time and not be rushed.
I need to plan ahead.
I need to minimize how much I am doing and how much I am deciding at one time.
I need to take baby steps and don't try to solve all problems in one single swoop.

At Occupational Therapy we tried working with the chart on this page that I found and felt was clear to me. We worked on practicing a scenario using this page. It was not bad for a first try but not great either. Yes, here we go again, practice practice practice!

I found this page a bit clearer, I think because it is kind of pictorial and that seems to be my best learning technique now. I seem to work with my visual memory best, especially pictures and shapes. Now I have to make this chart into my own version and memorize it!

Here are some of the links I found that were helpful.

Brain Injury Resource Center Decision Making Skills

The Open University Making Decisions

Study Guides and Stategies Problem Solving and Decision Making (This is very useful. I am making this my new on-line workbook for many other issues as well as decision making)

How to make Decisions: Coherence, Emotions, and Practical Inference (Kind of a philosophy approach.)

Basic Guidelines to Problem Solving and Decision Making

Mind Tools Introduction to Decision Making Techniques

Bonus Link
This is not really on topic but I found it rather enlightening and I am considering buying Dr Wang's book. Look at this video. The guy is a very good speaker.

Welcome to your Brain by Sam Wang.
The Video is a TEDxSF speech on the topic of "Neuroscience and Willpower".

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Egg Salad Sandwiches

The Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba is always trying to find ways to meet the needs of it's members and yesterday we had a meeting of a new sub-group called "Moving Forward". We are stroke survivors who are now trying to find ways to keep learning, growing and contributing.

This meeting was about talking and planning for the future but we also had a concrete focus of learning a basic cooking skill-- Egg Salad Sandwiches

For some of our group it is a new skill to be making the sandwich and for some of us we are looking for new and easier ways to cook now. All of us are interested in finding healthy ways of eating and preparing food.

Pictures will be added to this post later.

Egg Salad Sandwich
to serve 1 person

First you need to get all of your ingredients and supplies together and be sure you have everything you need.

foods you need
1 egg
1 teaspoon of mayonnaise
salt to taste
pepper to taste
dried garlic to taste
dried chives to taste
4 pieces of whole wheat bread

equipment you need
pot with water
garbage container for egg shells
fork to mash eggs
toaster is optional
knife to spread butter

To Boil the Eggs
place the eggs in cold water and
put it on the stove.
turn on the stove
at 10 minutes, turn off the stove and let it cool.

To Assemble the Sandwich
peel the eggs

put in the bowl

add the mayonnaise

add dehydrated chopped garlic

add dehydrated chopped chives

add salt

add pepper

mash your ingredients with the fork

toast your bread if you want a toasted egg salad sandwich.

spread a thin layer of butter on your toast or bread

spread your egg mixture between your 2 pieces of bread.

cut the sandwich in half if you want


We served it with pickles. Be careful how many pickles you eat if you are on a sodium reduced diet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Decisions, Decisions!

I have been working really hard on learning about decision making and problem solving. Basically I went overboard with the internet research and got overwhelmed again.

I saw my therapist again today and I tried to summarize what I learned and explain the steps in problem solving. I tried to explain a few helpful tools and techniques for making decisions. It did not go well! I had trouble remembering very much that was specific or actually remembering anything that would be helpful.

For next time I am supposed to stick with the KISS technique and "keep it simple". The goal is to come up a list of simple and memorable steps to follow when faced with making decisions. She explained that right now my decision making is not automatic like it once was. If I make a plan and I am consistent in following it, decision making will become easier and less stressful, it should become more automatic and decision making will become faster.

I will share a few of the informative links I found on this topic once I can decide which are worth sharing!

In the meantime this cheered me up.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Problems with decision making?

I now have problems with some basic things like short term memory, paying attention, and sequencing. I have gotten a lot of help with these issues through Occupational Therapy but I still have a long way to go.

The current issue we are working on is my problems with decision making. In the past I would have been called decisive. I tended to be logical and fast and confident in my opinions. I tended to be a leader in many situations. My friends, after my illness, have commented about my indecision and a few actually said they were concerned because I wasn't being as "bossy" as usual. I could have taken that as a criticism of the old Linda, but I knew they meant it with love and thought of bossy as a good thing.

The hard decisions aren't so bad. If there are really clear pros or cons I am fine. If I have had preferences from the past that I remember, it is okay. Maybe there is a little lag time, but I do make decisions.

It has been the little things that really aren't important that get me hung up. What kind of tea do you want? Which direction do you want to turn on a neighborhood walk? Those now seem to be the difficult choices.

I recently told my occupational therapist, rather casually, that I had a crying meltdown in Wal-mart recently over choosing candles for Thanksgiving. Which scent to choose, which size, how many for how much money? Now, I really did not care that much one way or another, but I sure got upset when I found myself standing there, frozen like a deer in car headlights, crippled with indecision. I started crying and told my husband to forget it and that I want to go home! Bob just picked up 2 candles for $8. End of topic. He steered me to another department and tried to distract me. My therapist, T, thought we should address this as it is just plain not functional to spend my time crying and not making decisions.

She told me to come up with a phrase to repeat to myself every time I find myself freezing in order to diffuse the situation. It is "no big deal" ,"this is not a big problem"? Picking a phrase is just another version of the original problem. I went back and forth and back and forth on my phrase choices. Eventually, once cornered by T, I went with:

"It is just not the end of the world Linda!!"

OT homework for this week is to do research on the internet about decision making strategies. There is a lot out there on the topic so I will be kept busy this weekend. Doing internet research is very comfortable for me so I should learn a lot.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sore Finger... part 2

My poor finger with the lump is not getting better yet. The bad news is that it is now infected. My finger was all swollen up and red so I hurried to the doctor and got put on an antibiotic with warnings to get to the hospital if it got any worse. Sheesh.

I am still waiting to even hear from the plastic surgeon, and starting to feel really desperate. We are on to week 10 since I got the thorn in my finger!

I called up the guitar school and got myself a medical leave. Can you imagine? One lesson and I have to take a break? Here I am with a wobbly left hand and now the right hand is being miserable too.

I actually think I might be getting better use in my affected hand. You hear about constraint therapy where the good hand/ arm is restrained in some way and the patient is forced to use their bad hand and hopefully they will gain more of the use of the affected hand. I feel like I am having a version of that kind of therapy mixed with negative reinforcement for using my right hand. My middle finger is stuck straight now because it is too swollen to move and had a big lump in the joint and also I get a huge shock of pain anytime I use it or touch it ever so slightly. My affected left hand, and that is my non-dominant hand, is getting a real work out.

My balance is being challenged too. I can hardly stand to hold my cane so I am mainly going slowly and carefully with just my own two feet.

I am trying so hard to look at the sunny side of this situation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just what do I do around here?

My 22 year old daughter is doing a bit better after her car accident. She is in a cast after surgery to fix her broken ankle, she has broken ribs, she has stitches, and more bumps and bruises than I can count. Her life at the moment is pain killers and napping and hopping to the bathroom using a 2 wheeled walker.

Today we had the insurance adjuster from Autopac (public car insurance) come to the house to assess my daughter's health needs and help start her personal insurance claims. What a monster pile of papers to fill out! She should get 90% of her salary and expenses like the crutches and walker and ambulance bill will be taken care of immediately. Other costs and benefits will be sorted out soon.

The lady asked her what she would normally do for chores around the house and what her other responsibilities are. Emily and I were saying she does the cooking, a lot of the laundry and housework and drives me around a lot. The lady turned to me and rather harshly asked so then what do I do around here? I was kind of stunned for a minute, tried to think of something I actually do and take responsibility for around here, and I drew a blank. I told her that basically I do nothing. I guess I looked pretty normal just sitting there; you can see some problems when I am walking or trying to carry things but the short term memory loss and other cognitive problems are invisible disabilities.

Emily quickly explained that I have had a stroke and have some physical and cognitive limitations. And then she added that I can't do much without supervision. She told the woman that I can't be trusted to turn the stove or iron off and that I loose my balance on the stairs. Basically she said that she is normally responsible for me while my husband is at work.

Oh my goodness!

First, how sad that my daughter feels such an overwhelming sense of responsibility at her young age and secondly how little they trust me to cope on my own even though I am doing much better now. I did know all this deep down, but hearing it said to a stranger was heart breaking.

I do try and keep everyone else around here organized, and think I do pretty close to my fair share, but I feel pretty darn useless about now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Very Sore Finger

I have a sore finger on my good hand. It is a real problem to me.

It started off in August when I got a little thorn in my middle finger of my right hand. I was at the cottage, gathering and cutting branches into smaller pieces to fit in the fireplace and one of the branches was a hawthorn and they really do have thorns! I thought I got it all out but it stayed irritated. I thought maybe a tiny bit was still in there and would eventually work it's way out but it just kept not healing and then it seemed to be getting more painful and bleeding easily and getting bigger. I talked to the doctor about it at my regular appointment and he said it just had to take time and heal. Two weeks later it was much bigger so I went back to the doctor.

Don't click on the following link if you get queasy very easily. It was now something called a Pyogenic Granuloma. Basically I have pea sized cluster of capillaries that are probably a benign growth. Most likely it is a weird inflammatory response to a local trauma. It is amazingly painful to touch and bleeds like crazy with the littlest bump. My doctor told his nurse to hold everything he was going to be busy for 10 minutes and went to look it up. He came back with a picture atlas of skin diseases and was all excited. Next he called in his partner saying "Hey wana see a Pyogenic granuloma?" " Oh that's what it looks like!" while they compared me to the book. They decided "Wow, it's a big one.". Hmmmmph.

First they tried burning it with a chemical cauterization and told me that I should come back the next week. Nope didn't work. Okay lets try liquid nitrogen and freeze it off. (cryosurgery) Nope, still didn't work. The next suggestion is we need to freeze it and scrape it off and out, and cauterize the bottom.

They now need to send the sample for biopsy, still assuring me it is not likely to be serious but that we do need to take care of the ugly thing. My doctor can't really do it in the office because I react very badly to local freezing, so I am being referred to a plastic surgeon. It is going to be more than a month to even see the guy and who knows when he will actually do the surgery!

I tried hard to express that the stupid thing is not just a yucky looking bump on my finger. I use a cane in that hand in order to balance and stay upright and this is actually affecting my mobility. I can't keep a good grip on the cane so now I need to go back to using my walker full time again.

I can't believe how slowed down I am because of a little sliver!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

I need to have a few regular things to bake and cook. I am still finding it harder than before to do things in the kitchen. If I can plan a few regular items, maybe I can remember the recipies better when I am cooking and maybe I can keep the ingredients around the house sothere will be less extra trips to the store for missing ingredients.

Blueberry Muffins

I like this version of blueberry muffins, but we have to avoid lemon in our house because of allergies. You can just leave out the lemon peel in this recipe.

If you have a recipe that calls for lemon juice you can use a 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar in place of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. You can also substitute equal parts of apple cider vinegar or of white wine.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My First Guitar Lesson

I had my very first guitar lesson yesterday. In fact it was my first music lesson in 35 years. I have taken my kids to many many lessons and I have paid attention but this time it was all for me. As a child I learned piano and I wasn't bad at it. Then there were all the years of accompaning my string playing kids so it is not like I haven't played an instrument in all this time.

After my stroke I tried to play the piano again and it has been an absolute failure. I even got the piano tuned hoping that would magically help. The fact is that my right and left hands are still not working at the same speed. My short term memory is also not very reliable so I keep needing to relearn any sections of the music. Another rather awful development with this stroke is that I became very sensitive to certain pitches and loud sounds, to certain lights and other strong stimuli; music has not been the soothing, joyful part of my life it once was. I have really missed turning to the comfort of my music but now my tolerance is slowly building back up again.

I am very fortunate that my left had is now working again. It is sluggish moving and to me it kind of feels like it is swollen. I have some trouble stretching it, I have a lack of strength and the other problem is that every once in a while my hand will clamp down in a death grip on objects I am holding when I least expect it. I need to use my other hand to peel my fingers off the object or poor persons hand.

The Therapy Mantra seems to be --- It you can move that body part .. do so.
If you would like more on that topic please see Peter Levine's very helpful blog-- The Stroke Recovery Blog.

My loss in ability on the piano is beyond frustrating and more than I can deal with right now. My right hand goes to fly on with the music and left hand is just out of sync with fingering.. a lot behind, and slowing down the tempo really doesn't seem to solve the issue.

Okay sooooo-
  • I am thinking Guitar is new and different and no expectations from previous performance levels.
  • I really like quiet classical guitar music.
  • We have a nice guitar of my daughters around not being used.
  • I want my hand to be moving easier
  • I NEED to work on my memory skills.

I heard of a nice , very experienced teacher at a local music school and yesterday I went to meet him for my first lesson.

So far so good. Most of it was doable, but it will require a lot of work on my part to become more fluid when playing. I think the teacher was a little surprised when he asked me what I was looking for in music lessons and I told him "Mainly therapy". He was good with that part though, and seems like a very patient man. He was having trouble working on adjusting to the fact that he had to help me get my guitar packed and up the stairs. I couldn't manage to go up and down the stairs to his studio and carry the guitar at the same time.

It had never crossed my mind that the place would not be accessible. Maybe it is just as well I didn't realize about the stairs or I would not have given it a shot, but we solved the problems one way or another.

I think guitar with my new teacher Rob is going to work out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Good Luck Vicki

I am loosing my physiotherapist.

I have been with Vicki for a very long time now and feel quite attached to her. I have come a long way with her help and she is one of few people who understand how much work I have put in and how far I have come. I understand I will be assigned a new physiotherapist soon. I guess we will start with the present and look to the future.

Vicki got a different job at the same hospital working with the outpatient program so she will not be working with the Easy Street clients anymore.

I think this is going to be a wise move for her and I wish her all the best.

Thanks for everything Vicki!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Driving can be Dangerous

This is a different kind of post for me.

My daughter was involved in a car accident on the highway a couple days ago. She was traveling at dusk by herself and simply lost her concentration, hit the gravel shoulder of the highway and wound up flying across the highway and through a deep ditch. We are very very lucky she is alive and doing so well. She had to be cut out of the car and it was all pretty horrific. She is going to be okay but she had to have surgery on her ankle, a bunch of stitches and it looks like she has broken ribs and other damage from her seat belt. The seat belt no doubt saved her life. She is still in the hospital and in a lot of pain.

Living a healthy life includes wearing your seat-belt, don't drive when you are tired and please show extra caution driving when conditions are less than ideal. Focus on driving, not on daydreams, radios, cellphones or any other distractions.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fire Alarms

It was a busy day at Easy Street with 3 appointments back to back. Each appointment today is worth its own post but I had an incident that really threw me.

We were just finishing up in Physiotherapy and reviewing what I need to do for homework when a fire alarm went off for the hospital. The sound absolutely got to me. I was not panicked or worried about a fire, it was really the physical sound that hit me so hard. I remember saying I can't stand this! I had trouble talking and felt kind of like I was being hit in the side of the head. There was an almost instant pain in my left ear like I had a bad ear infection. It was time to head to the next appointment but the space was kind of locked down so I was grateful to just sit for a few more minutes and try to pull myself together until the all clear bell rang.

My balance was gone, I was dizzy and thought that I was going to vomit. All the people rushing around after the delay was tough to watch too and aggravated the situation even more. My physiotherapist walked me back and it was so challenging I needed her help a lot. It was like the past 12 months worth of work and progress had vanished. We got to the other side offices for my next appointment and my therapist brought me some water and I just sat.

I was pretty useless for the first part of the appointment. I had huge amount of pain in my ear and in my eye by that point and even my face felt horrible. It slowly settled into just a horrible headache and I was able to see better. I think it was close to an hour after the alarm before my equilibrium started to improve and I could focus on my dietician. The cab ride home was hard but I was coping okay right until he decided to back up for several houses. I could hardly get out of the cab and it was another half hour before the nausea settled down.
In the evening after a long rest I felt able to go to Canadian Tire with Bob. I was tired, and still had a lingering earache, but felt okay. I bent over to look at a product tag that was upside down and woosh I was collapsing again.

This morning I am feeling fine, the ear ache is gone, and I am back to what is now normal for me but I feel pretty thrown by the whole experience. I have been doing so well and feeling more confident in myself, but that I could have found myself so miserable and incapacitated with just the sound of an alarm is very disconcerting to me. The world is feeling a little less safe today than it was yesterday morning.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The SAM Community Sale Event at St Norbert Market

St Norbert's Farmers Market Sale

On Saturday, September 18, 2010 the Stroke Association of Manitoba (SAM) was represented at the Community Booth in the Market space.

the Auxiliary Ladies, with assistance by SAM staff, helped pull together the supplies which I picked up on Thursday.

There was no charge for the booth and it can be used once per year by a non-profit group.

The weather was very cool in the morning and there was a huge demand for our mitts and hats. Sales were good all day but slowed down somewhat after noon.

We gave out papers with the auxiliary information to anyone who might be interested in donating materials or crafting for us or were interested in purchasing items directly from the office. We met several people who have had a stroke and a couple of adult children of stroke survivors who were interested in our services and took information pamphlets with them.

It was very positive PR to have our name seen by probably 1000 or more people. We explained about our organization to many, many people. It was a good day.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Me on Local Cable TV

Easy Street, The fantastic rehabilitation program I have been attending was featured in a local cable TV segment. They asked me to participate and be filmed doing a few background things with my physiotherapist. I wound up interviewed and it was a lot more than the couple of seconds on air that I expected.

I am not really very comfortable about being that public with my problems, but I am writing on the blog too so I should try to adjust. I really do think the world of this wonderful and innovative, multidisciplinary rehab program and want to support it anyway I can.

The link below requires Windows Media Player 7.1 or higher to view it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I can see changes

It has been a good Summer.

I have really been aware of how much better I am moving around. My improvement in the past 3 months has made such a difference in my getting on with my life. I am now able to get around without using the walker most of the time and I don't really need the cane in quieter, familiar, level places. I do however find that light changes, moving items, crowds and getting over tired are still bad triggers of dizziness and nausea.

Today when I was getting in the boat it really dipped a lot. I got in the boat okay with help but I felt horribly nauseated for most of the ride home. I realized.. once the waves of nausea passed,.... that it has been a month since I have had this severe a reaction. Progress! Car rides are now tolerable most days and boat rides are even fun on a calm day.

It is hard to see the day by day progress. Fall is around the corner and as I reflect on the changes since we opened the cottage in the May, I can't help but feel optimistic.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer Therapy Group: Session 6 - Dreaming about my Goals

The Last Session.

It is hard to believe it is over already.

The therapist invited the head of the rehab programs to meet with us and to hear our views. It was a good thing. Unfortunately only half our group were there and our student volunteer was also gone already so it was just the 2 of us clients sharing our opinions but I certainly feel like our opinions were valued.

The original plan had been to go down to the river and release a few slips of papers with our worries, but it was crummy weather outside so we just staying in our room and sunk the papers in a bowl of water but that is not quite the same impact.

We took a piece of paper and we were supposed to make a list of our goals. Ever the over-achiever, I struggled with organizing the goals, and deciding what should be included and overshot with producing a time line while the poor other guy sat and waited for me to get done.

The therapist asked us each to pick one specific goal that we are willing to work on in the immediate future.

Surprise surprise, even to myself, I picked that I want to learn guitar!

Now what is the rational behind this?
  • I like guitar music.
  • We have Emily's beautiful guitar and no one is using it.
  • I tried piano and that had two problems. First, I really found it upsetting that I couldn't play like I used to and I also found my two hands were fingering at different speeds. A guitar will be new to me so no sense of what used to be and the hands are doing very different physical tasks.
  • The guitar might be great physical therapy for my functioning but weak and slower moving left hand
  • Working with the music should be a doable challenge to work on my poor short memory too
  • Music, for me, used to be like a form of meditation and very soothing, or it could be a way of venting emotions and feelings. Both would feel good about now!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer Therapy Group: Session 5 - Strengths and Stressors

The paper hat in the picture was to reflect challenges we face and ways of dealing with the challenges. Many of the challenges we each came up with were also relevant to others in the group. I wish others were not also affected but at the same time it is good to know you are not alone in your struggles.

We also brought in objects that gave us positive feelings.

I brought in this willow tree figurine given to me by one of my daughters to encourage me and cheer me when I was starting to give up of hope. The figure is called Happiness.

The artist and creator of the Willow Tree ornaments, Susan Lordi writes:


FREE to sing, laugh, dance... create!

I hope this piece is very open to viewer interpretation. For me, it is the pure joy that comes from creating — in all of its forms. A side note … I love bluebirds.

I want to enjoy and make music again, I want laugh and move easily, and I want to be creative once again.. and I am working on it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer Therapy Group: Session 4 - Feelings about Changes

It was a small group today, but we had very good conversations.

We were supposed to have written a short story about how we felt after our health changed. I procrastinated and procrastinated but once I started to write it flew out fast and angry. I wrote about how I though I was not going to survive, and about the pain my family was going through. I wrote about how much anger I felt toward the medical system over mistreatment I received. I had though that a lot of that anger was put behind me but once I opened the flood gates there was no stopping me spewing pain and anger all over the paper. When we were discussing the activity I found I was willing to read it out loud to the others. Sharing my writing was a big step too.

Next we did a collage using pictures from magazines that showed our journey. I really enjoyed doing it and took a long time and worked on a lot of details. I found that as I moved from one side of the page to the other I portrayed a real sense of empowerment and a process where I was getting control of my life again and enjoying the company and support of others. I was slowly finding joy as I looked over the past two years. If I am a caterpillar it is taking a very time to to turn into a butterfly.

Anger and joy in one afternoon is exhausting.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer Therapy Group: Session 3 - Loss

I was not able to attend this session because I was taking the opportunity to go to the cottage with my daughter on one of her few days off.

I understand that it was a great day and enjoyed very much by the other participants. They let loose helium filled balloons with attached messages about sad things in our lives off over the city from the top of the hospital parking garage. It was letting go of some of the pain and sadness of the past and making way for a new future. I watched the birds and sky at the lake and felt pretty happy with the world too.

I wasn't there --- so no photos today, but the internet provides us with balloon clip art. (Smile)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Therapy Group: Session 2 - How do I see me?

We had to make a list of things we like about ourselves right now. Have you ever tried this?? It is hard to do honestly. There is the way you think others may see you from the outside and how they would appreciate and like you. But what about how you feel about yourself right now inside your own head? Whose standards are those voices you are hearing? Your parents? Your husbands? Your grade school teacher maybe? I remember Anthropology and Sociology classed teaching us the meaning of societal norms and values.

It is also hard to think about yourself in the here and now and not in comparison to the person you used to be. I was a pretty good public speaker, and then I became ill and could barely communicate at all. I can talk fine now, but not for too long, or if I am already tired I make a whole lot less sense. So am I still a good public speaker in others eyes? I really just don't know anymore. In my eyes I am adequate, but not really good.

Anyway I needed to make a list so here is what I came up with on that day.

I like that I am:

I am kind
I am generous
I am compassionate
I am insightful
I have a good sense of humor
I am a good friend
I am a loving wife and mother
I am creative
I am patient
I am hardworking
I am persistent
I am knowledgeable

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Therapy Group: Session 1 - Sharing about Ourselves

I am attending a 6 week therapy group led by The Easy Street Outpatient Program's Social Worker who is specializing in working with people who have had a life changing health crisis. Easy Street is a wonderful multi-discipline program operated out of the Rehab section of the Misericordia Hospital in Winnipeg.

There are 4 of us participants, our Social Worker and a young volunteer. It is always difficult to become a new group. This time was easier though because all of us participants had met before for group with a different therapist. The one struggling the most to know how to fit in was the poor University student volunteer.

The hope is that we will go outside and use some of the spaces around the hospital such as the Gazebo in today's picture.

Sharing about myself and getting to know you was the first topic.

We were to bring a picture of ourselves that meant a lot to us. Wow, for a photography involved family that was tough one. Add to the fact that one of my cognitive problems has been making decisions, so I opted for not making a decision and just bringing several. There was the one of our wedding, one of me in the canoe this year for the first time in forever and one of Bob and me at the Stroke Recovery Christmas Party with Bob dressed up as Santa. The wedding was of course important to me as the Beginning of our life together as a couple. The picture of me in the canoe was also a new beginning; I have had a new opportunity to enjoy life and experience things that I came so close to loosing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stroke Related Links - plus a few others

Links to major Organizations

Stroke Recovery Canada

This is a subsection of the March of Dimes site that basically acts as a resource site for Stroke recovery associations around Canada

Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba

My favorite hangout. I can't begin to tell you what a difference this organization has made to me and my recovery. Friendship, and some very practical help.

Heart and Stroke Association of Canada

Canadian with a lot of varied information. Good educational resource site.

Heart Association magazine archives (USA)

Stroke Connection is a magazine of the American heart association archived files of the magazine
and they have it on line. full issues for years back. I have loved going backward reading the magazines.

Alzheimer Society
many of the risk factors for Alzheimer are similar to those of Stroke. The site is very well done. I like one of the sections called the healthy brain in particular. It is my favorite spot for a couple of online puzzles under BrainBooster.

Power to End Stroke

Take a look at the comedy ads for public service ads.
strokes no joke

Some of my favorite Healthy Living and Wellness Web links around Winnipeg

Wellness Institute
Local Health resource location with lots of good programs.

Refit Center
close to home resource and fitness institute

Leisure Guide
Our city recreation programs lots of healthy living

Fort Whyte
It is not exactly healthy living in focus and more of an environmental stewardship focus, but a great place to go and pretty accessible. What it does have there that is interesting is accessible sailing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dream Big - Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband

I read about this song on Flylady the super organizational web support system. It was such a positive song I felt good for a long time after.

I really wanted to share this video.. it is actually disabled to show here, but it will take you to the uTube site so please go ahead and click on over!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Barbeque Season

Summer is here and today was warm!

We like to BBQ but we are starting to make changes in what we cook.
Today the burger was a frozen turkey burger in a 60 % whole wheat bun. The side dish was fresh green beans cooked in the microwave and Emily made a wonderful potato salad. It just wouldn't be summer without some kind of potato salad. We have been experimenting with a few different kinds of potato salad that seem healthier or lower calorie but until today's attempt they really were not very tasty or satisfying.

This Potato salad is reduced in calories but it still has a very creamy traditional kind of taste.

Emily's Canada Day Potato Salad

5 medium potatoes, cubed (skin on is okay)
3 eggs, hard boiled, cooled and cubed
2 stocks of celery, chopped
3/4 cup of low fat cottage cheese
3/4 cup of half the fat mayonnaise
sprinkle of paprika (optional)

Boil the potato cubes until cooked but firm. Run them under cold water until cool and then drain. In a larger bowl combine the potatoes with the eggs and the celery.
Blend the cottage cheese and mayonnaise in a separate bowl or using a food processor. We like used an immersion blender. Add the cheese mixture to the potato mixture and combine thoroughly . Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Dock is getting more accessible

Our new, easy to use, mainland dock space.

Today my son and my husband repaired our "new dock". We have been trying for years to get a decent spot to leave our boat on the mainland shore. I can't believe we finally have a spot! There is a new owner at the closest campground and he told us last week we could rent the space if we fixed up a broken dock ourselves. You see the "before repairs" picture above.

We finally have dock space for our boat!

We have been launching our boat every time we go out and hauling it home with us every time. It takes extra time both coming and going from the cottage, and it is really exhausting and sometimes pretty scary to me when I am getting in or out. The dock space we have been using is a very high dock and it has been very hard to do since I have had mobility problems.

I find our cottage dock easier to use, but I still could not possible get in or out of the boat without someone to help pull me and steady me. I must admit it is going a lot easier this year than it was last year, and it is getting a little easier with every trip this year. I guess practice makes perfect.

The long and curving dock at our cottage with our boat, "Big Blue".

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Change Can be Hard

Water Lily in the Rain Drops
a symbol for new beginnings and enlightenment

Therapy homework was about reflecting on where I was before, where I am now, and what are my hopes and goals for the future. It is a pretty tall order to figure it all out. The fact is that I am not the same person, physically, mentally or emotionally that I was before.
Who knows, maybe in some ways I am even better.

One thing I know is that I still have a lot of work to do.

Photography by Bob Cooper copyright July 2009 . All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. ~Doug Larson

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Went Canoeing

It has been a very long time since I was out in a canoe.

Bob and son Bobby, with supervision from me and little O., moved around a bunch of large rocks at the waters edge to the front of the cottage lot. They made a big flat rock area useful as a canoe launch and it was stable enough to let me climb in. There still needed to be someone holding on, (Thanks Bobby), and I found that bending over to grab the sides of the canoe when I was climbing in was very hard and made me dizzy. One big step in, kind of a hard plop down on the seat and we were on our way.

It felt just so natural to be paddling . Nothing to it. I suspect Bob, over there in the back , was doing more than his fair share of paddling, but I did my best. Things were so extraordinarily beautiful and lush looking at the back side of the island that I regretted leaving my camera where it was safe and dry. At one point we got hung up on some rocks and I needed to switch paddling sides, and help push us sideways. That was not at all easy. It is apparent that I am at the moment a bit of a one sided paddler. Just one more thing to work on.

I felt such a sense of freedom out on that boat, close to the water and coasting along with a bit of breeze. Even a little bit rougher water was just exciting and not scary at all.

We only did one little loop around our tiny island. That took us under 30 minutes, but it was all I could handle before I was exhausted.... this time.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Time for a new start

I have taken a very very long break from working on this blog.

I think it was too physically too hard for me a year ago and I was really doubting my own abilities to write and think clearly back then, probably with good reason. I also was unsure how much of my own personal story I wanted to share; my life seemed so uncertain and so many of my health questions were unanswered. Now I have real regrets that I didn't document my journey and my struggles toward a healthier life.

I have some sense that perhaps it too late now. Should I be playing catch up somehow and try to record what all happened in the past two years?

My former therapist/ social worker retired a month ago and I told her I didn't think that I had it in me to start over explaining everything to her replacement. Kathy wisely said there were indeed a few things from the past that would need to be explained to the new therapist, but that this was a new start. I only needed to begin with today and think about moving forward. All of the ups and downs, and the details of the past year are not needed for me to make progress in the future.

So here we are. I have come a tremendously long way and I feel very blessed to be here and managing as well as I am. I still have a long way to go on this journey. I still have a lot of recovery from the brain injury to deal with, but I also have a long way to go toward being the fit, healthy woman I want to become.

Today the next part of my journey begins ......

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