It is absolutely amazing how our mental capabilities can boost or undermine our forward movement in life. When all is going right, we can feel invincible. If challenges appear within our mental or physical capabilities all can come to an abrupt stop…at least that is what happened to me. Some where in my dark recesses of my mind, within the past 8 years, I experienced a silent stroke. While it did not result in any of the symptoms covered in F.A.S.T, there were subtle changes that took a great toll on my life, my confidence in facing life.
For those unfamiliar with F.A.S.T the points to remember if you or another individual exhibit the following symptoms, act fast!
- Face…one side drooping, most visible in the mouth. The inability to smile.
- Arm…one arm droops, it cannot be raised.
- Speech…difficulty speaking or speech may be slurred.
- Time…time to act FAST. The damage of any stroke can be lessened if help is given quickly.
(update) 8/19/2015 It is amazing how the human body and the human mind can be rehabilitated. I understand fully the encouragement for seniors like myself, to continually challenge their minds. We are told to learn a new skill. It does not have to be a complicated one, but one that is totally different from what we have done in the past. Grow from doing accounting to woodworking, teaching to knitting. Music is a good choice. Yes, I learned to play the piano years ago, but have not touched it in over 50 years. I can still read music, which amazes me. I have a keyboard and have been trying to get myself to re-learn an old skill.
It upsets me to see how my writing came out earlier, but I am leaving it to remind me to keep challenging myself to regain my writing ability. Oh, I was never a top notch writer, but was able to earn money through my writing and that was a great feeling. hopefully I will be able to do that again in the future…it is that first step that is the hardest.
I did experience some other symptoms at a later date that I will never forget. On December 10, 2013, I went out the door of my son’s home after an early holiday dinner. The next thing I knew I was in the car! I did not remember walking the necessary steps to get there. This was about 30+ steps. I am so glad I was not the driver as I do not know what might have happened if I was.
Things went along just fine for a while. I had just started on a new career of freelance writing and my ability at it was growing, so was my confidence and more importantly, my income. Then, almost overnight that came to a stop. My ability to focus, my concentration disappeared. My balance came and went. Oh, I did not fall down, but I had difficulty walking a straight line. My sleep became more and more non-restorative. I have sleep apnea and I have been the most faithful individual there is regarding the nightly use of the sleep machine and the wearing of my mask. My sinuses, which have never been too happy with the onslaught of air invading their domain every night, began a strong protest that went beyond all treatments that worked before. Of course, unhappy sinuses can mess up balance too.
After a new sleep study (December 2014) showed the presence of centrals, I spoke up and got a BIPAP machine. While it is not really the best for treating centrals according to what I have read, my sleep is deeper. My sleep includes DREAMS! I feel more rested in the morning. I do not know how to stress the importance of good sleep when it comes to our health! Sleep is that time out of our day when our bodies get to step back from full activity and regain the strength put out during the day.
The rest of 2014 became a blur in my eyes. I existed and that was it. No energy, no writing, which lead to my becoming a blob…both physically and mentally. Now this happened to an individual that loved loading and unloading multiple 50 lbs bags of river rock to create a ‘dry river bed’ in my front yard. Tackling the overgrown trees/foliage with my mini electric chainsaw and lining it all up in the proper 4 foot lengths along the front of my property to be picked up. My partner, Elliot, and I were enjoying regular kayak outings.
Now, just the thought of handling that chainsaw scares me. After last spring, I have found myself reaching for hot objects without grabbing the hot pad first. Luckily I felt the heat and stopped in time. I start cooking and have to carry a timer as I simply forget that I am in the process of cooking! My speech is OK, but I now find certain words more difficult to say. Other times I use a word that just does not fit. “Yes,” you say, “This can happen to anyone!” True, it can, but not in what was almost overnight and in combination with multiple other problems.
I am also a 14 year survivor of breast cancer. This is one anniversary that I hope to continue to adding on years. Oh, I did get a few hiccups post treatment, but I did survive. The major change that occurred and continues to affect my life, is that I am physically very sensitive, especially to medicines. I was unable to take any of the post chemo medications or the peripheral neuropathy medications, not because of an allergic reaction, but a hyper sensitivity that made those side effects so very strong.
I handle the neuropathy by wearing my stylish extra-wide, one size too big Crocs! Hey, they allow me to walk…who cares what they look like! When pain is bad, I stick my feet in ice water. Because I do not take OTC meds often, the occasional Tylenol does wonders. Then when I started feeling this jumping and flip-flopping in my chest…talk about panic. Of course, when I visited my primary or when I finally took myself to the ER early one morning…nothing happened! It was only through the gift of the AliveCor unit from Dr. David Albert, that I discovered that the flip-flopping was simply PVCs. Next came the PACs, also not a major happening to worry about, but still…when you add strange cardiac events to my stroke and sleep apnea history, panic set in! Did I tell you I was a worrier? Well, I am. So much so that my kids gave me a book on how to deal with worrying.
For most of my adult life, my big brother, Denny, watched over me in his way, especially after my parents died. Then it was his turn to leave. He had worked for Abbott Labs and dealt with radioactive materials. While he was monitored according to the protocols written, he developed thyroid cancer. It was impossible to remove it all and when it returned in a vengeance it compromised both his trachea and esophagus. A biopsy showed that it was not treatable. He passed away January 1st, 2015. I decided that his new mission is to make sure that I leave 2014 behind and recreate a new me in 2015. Out of the blue I started walking and walking. At first I could barely do a quarter of a mile. Now I can easily do a mile, even when I am not feeling all that great. I try to get two 1 mile walks in each day. With the summer heat and humidity of Florida, that means early morning and later afternoon.
This senior is fighting back. Last year I learned FiftyThree Paper, a free drawing app to put on the iPad. Using the app and Pencil, I have discovered a fantastic creative outlet where artists can share and even enhance each other’s work on MIX. I have learned about brain games like Brain HQ and Lumosity. I love my Solitaire Forever and MahJong that I keep on my iPad. All can be found on iTunes. I have learned to Twitter…I follow the links and read about so many new things that are occurring , especially in medicine. I promote those Tweets that are involved in healthcare, keeping our bodies strong.
This post is my fighting back at my fear of writing. It is being done for myself…not another. That makes a big difference. If I reach a point that writing comes easier, I will once again tackle freelance writing.