Thursday, November 22, 2012

Making Memories

March 2010: six days before my stroke

It has been a long time since I have grieved over my physical limitations. But this Thanksgiving my brother's family escaped to our shared condo in Mammoth. As I think of them there, I cannot help but remember the time we shared together just days before my stroke.

We had gone to Mammoth to enjoy the snow with my young niece and nephew. We are from Los Angeles so snow is miraculous, magical! I was as excited as the kids. They were finally big enough for inner tubing!

The kids eyed the tubing hill with uncertainty as we buckled their helmets under their chins. We had signed the liability waivers and were persuading my nephew to try it “just once.” We doubled up one kid with an adult and we flew down that mountain!

"Again!" they screamed as soon as we skidded to a stop.

We headed for the towline that hauls riders up the hill. I rode with my niece: me on my back in the tube, her small body warming my belly, our faces turned to the sky and the snow-laden trees. I recall the swish of our tube over snow, intimate whispers between us. What did we talk about on that gentle ride up the mountain?

These are the moments I miss.

More than two years have passed and the children are big enough now to ride their own tubes. I cannot ride at all. I suppose my experience is no different than the parent who loses the child through its growing independence. I just wanted more time.

This Thanksgiving I remind myself to be grateful for the time I had, and the time I still have to make new memories.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Location, Location, Location

My affected side has been very stiff and sore lately. My therapists tell me it’s because of the change in the weather. I live in Los Angeles and despite daytime temperatures this fall often registering above 80°F, there is a chill in the air at night.

I think about my stroke friends who live on the East Coast or in Canada and wonder how they contend with the snow and freezing temperatures. It's so much more than the dangers of walking or driving on ice, or the effort required to put on and take off extra layers. It's the way the cold settles into the muscles and makes them less effective and more painful than usual.

It reminds me how lucky I am to be where I am in dealing with life post-stroke. It's not just the weather — it's the depth of medical help available to me that isn't available to others. I know a Canadian survivor whose nearest neurologist is a two-hour drive away. From the rural Midwest, a reader of my blog contacted me with questions about how to help her husband regain functionality in his hand; the only occupational therapist within driving distance had dismissed her husband, saying there was nothing more to do for him.

I am not only geographically closer to my medical team, I have a choice whom to work with: I had the luxury of firing both my first occupational therapist and my first neurologist.

I hope that I’m not making survivors who are not located as beneficially as me feel bad. (If it makes you feel better, I’ve paid for it in traffic jams, air pollution and skin cancer.) I just wanted to point out that location is one more factor that has an impact on our recovery.