May has a new meaning to me....at least it has since July of 2006.....I am again prompted to tell my story, abridged. This following blog post was first 'aired' May 6th in 2008. I am reposting it today to explain.....and maybe it can help someone else deal with whatever life throws at them. Read on.........
May has always been a special month for my family…spring is in full swing; my husband’s birthday falls in May and of course so does Mother’s Day. But this year  [and last year – 2007] May has taking on new meaning for us, as it is designated as Stroke Awareness Month.
And we are very aware about stroke. Now!
On July 29th of 2006, my husband and I, along with my sister who was visiting from California, were all headed from our farm in Morrill, Maine to my eldest brother’s home in New Hampshire to celebrate his 70th birthday. It was a surprise party for him and for the first time in a long time, my siblings and I were going to be together to party and have a good time. We arrived on time and I got out of our car to greet everyone, feeling so happy to see us all together. My sister-in-law, Bev walked up to me and started talking …I could hear her, but I couldn't make out a word that she was saying. I didn’t feel right, but was busy looking around at everybody when I realized I couldn't see my right hand or arm and I couldn’t figure out where they were…and I was still trying to understand Bev. She sounded like a slow broken record and her words were all jumbled to me. I looked around for my husband, Les, and when I saw him I asked, “Where’s my arm? And he said “By your side? What’s the matter?” Then I guess everyone saw something was wrong with me. I remember them helping me into the shade of a huge tree on the grounds and helping to lay me down on the ground. I looked up at everyone…I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t talk and tell them what I felt as a sea of faces looked down on me. But through it all a strange feeling of calm and peacefulness filled my being and I knew it would be all right. I was suffering a stroke. I missed my brother’s 70th birthday…….
To make a long story short…I was rushed to a hospital in N.H. and then was transported by ambulance to Portland, Maine, and admitted into Maine Medical Center. This was done in order that I should be closer to my family and doctors.
Tests were started.. The left side of my brain had been ‘attacked’ when the blood flow was interrupted or stopped due to a blood clot. A significant part of my left temporal lobe was affected and this left me with right-sided paralysis and Aphasia. Aphasia is a condition where language problems make it difficult to talk the way I used to ,and it makes writing very difficult for me. Something that was so important to me in my life [I have worked as a newspaper reporter and fashion editor in the past…and always wrote poetry] ....was now something that was so difficult. My understanding and comprehension of speech were unimpaired, but speech itself became hard as my speech related muscles wouldn’t cooperate and my brain could not find the words to say what I wanted to.
But what was more important to me, as I lay on the hospital bed with my family around me…could I draw??? I managed to get the nurse to understand what I wanted…. a pencil and paper. She brought them and everyone looked on as I sketched an eye, a horse head….okay… I could live with the limitations I had a this point. I could draw, and this would mean I could paint. I am professional artist….. Life was good!!!
In the weeks that passed in between hospital tests, MRI’s and blood work, I sketched some, slept a lot, but I knew I needed to get home, to our quiet farm where I would be alone with my husband, see my Corgi and our horses, see and smell our gardens and get down to the business of getting better…. to getting ‘Kathi’ back!
The year and half that passed was difficult, very difficult. Our horses became my therapy, as I brushed them while walking with a cane my hand and arm gained strength. I cleaned stalls using the muck fork to help me stand up. Throwing hay and lifting shaving bags became my upper body strengthen exercises. I had a speech therapist come and work with me in our home. She helped me start to get over some of the Aphasia problems And an occupational therapist helped me get my eye and hand coordination back.
And I painted…and drew and I slept. I slept a lot. I still sleep during the day needing naps to replenish my energy.
I started a blog after my therapist suggested that I do it as an exercise to recapture my language skills. Each and every blog entry has my recovery in it. Metaphorically each of my paintings tells of my struggles and my victories...most in the form of equine art, but lately broadening to works depicting Maine and my surroundings.
But through it all I knew that my attitude about what I was going through was more important to me that what had happened to me. My recovery depended on my attitude. I cannot control what happens to me in life..but I can control my attitude. And that is my life’s mantra now……….’if it’s gonna be….It’s up to me.’
And so I paint………………….