It is the merry month of May. It also is a month of celebration as spring really arrives in Maine and it is the month we usually have the vet come to give our horses their yearly checkup and annual shots. BUT May will always have a miriad of meanings for me... because it is STROKE AWARENESS month. But I digress…read my blog entry of May 19th, 2008 that explains a lot. ....
"What May Means To Me Or Why I Blog" written 5/19/2008
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 really talk and tell them what I felt and 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. 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 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 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. Life was good!!!
In the week 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!
This year and half that has passed has been difficult. Our horses became my therapy, as I brushed them while walking with a cane, my hand and arm gained strength. I cleaned stalls, needing the muck fork to help stand up with. 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 the Aphasia problems…and an occupational therapist to help me get my 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 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 I have also been blessed with a wonderful husband who has been beside me through it all. Les has been the wind beneath my wings. So in a nutshell….that is my story. Why I blog.. and the road leading up to the beginning of my blog. That is my story and I am sticking with it."
So we are here today 9 years since my stroke. I have had several TIAs [small mini strokes] since 2006. I still have Aphasia, though mild now , I do have trouble understanding and writing numbers. I can't stand noise and confusion. I have trouble writing and figuring out spelling of words, which can be very frustrating! I do have central pain syndrome , which has left me with pain on my right side , 24/7........Yet when I paint, I feel no pain....only afterwards. I feel blessed to have been given a "new birth" ...and everyday is a gift to be thankful for! I was a professional artist before my stroke.....and I still am. I try to muddle through the business part of being an artist.........the painting part is 'a breeze". I want to thank all my friends and collectors of my work for their past and continued support of my art.... Your support fuels my passion.
Sometimes life throws us a curve ball.........it's up to us to hit it out of the ball park!
Carpe diem! Who knows what tomorrow may bring.
HAPPY MAY DAY!!!!!!