For nearly 21 years I've lamented losing the use of my left hand due to a stroke. When I fell and broke my left hand 3 weeks ago, ending up first in a functionally limiting soft cast then a thermoplastic splint it didn't take long for me to realize, stroke or not, just how much I use that very same hand I've long thought useless. Who knew?
The lesson here -- keep using it even if you think you can't. You may surprise yourself.
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For as long as I can remember I've wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand. Now I can happily say, "been there, done that." Half of it anyway. I'm just back from two weeks in Australia. New Zealand? Maybe in another lifetime. What's important here? A long and potentially difficult trip came off without a hitch and I'm more than happy to have faced down my post-stroke travel fears once again.
I've traveled to numerous foreign destinations since having my stroke, but this trip was special. Not only was it a dream come true; it was a wonderful affirmation of what life can be post-stroke, full, productive and thuroughly enjoyed. We went to Cairns where the Great Barrier Reef is. Okay, so I was unable to snorkel the reef as I had hoped. Had it not been too choppy and too cold to snorkel the first day for even my fully able-bodied partner and; had I not picked up an intestinal bug the second day, I was ready and willing to test my able-ness to snorkel. What's important here? I was prepared to give snorkeling my all, scared or not, had the circumstances been different.
We went to Melbourne, a lovely city where we figured out the bus and tram system in terms of accessibility a little too late, but we did figure it out.
In Sydney we met my email pen pal of 2 years, another stroke survivor, whom I've mentioned in a previous post as the crazy guy who paid more for shipping a One Hand CanDo Cutting Board than he paid for the board itself. He had arranged for me to present my "One Hand Can Cook!" demonstration at the hospital where he does his rehab. The presentation was a bit more complicated and a bit less organized than is typical, but what's important here? I was given the opportunity to share my post-stroke experience and know-how with a whole new group of survivors. That was the cherry on top of a rich, sweat and yummy travel sundae!
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I am presenting another "One Hand Can Cook!" Demonstration this week. If you are in or near Reno, Nevada this Thursday, 9/24, please come. The demo is FREE and everyone is welcome. It is at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Reno at 5:30 PM. And then...
The next day, Friday, my partner and I leave for 2 weeks in Australia! I'm excited. This has been on my proverbial bucket list forever! In Sydney we will be meeting my email pen pal who bought one of my One Hand CanDo Cutting Boards a couple of years ago and,since then, we have become fast internet friends. I look forward to meeting the guy who wanted a CanDo Cutting Board so much he paid more for shipping than for the board itself! After Sydney we travel to Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef. In Cairns it gets a bit dicey. We booked a 2 day snorkeling tour. I've snorkeled twice before, once pre and once post stroke. Post stroke was kinda' scary, but how could I go to Australia and not snorkel one of the great wonders of the world? The water temp will be around 77*, COLD in my book. I keep my small pool around 86* so I'm concerned, but committed! I keep reminding myself, one hand CAN and does!
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It's been three months since my grief stricken post about losing my cat, Rocky. I miss her dearly and thought long and hard about whether or not to adopt another cat. Caring for a pet can get complicated for a stroke survivor. Adding more challenges to an already challenged life is cause for pause, for sure. The prospect of, again, changing a litter box, brushing an uncooperative cat, clipping claws. Heck, even opening a can of food with only one functional hand to work with all add up to the inevitable question, "am I really up for this?" When I think about it, that's the same question I have asked myself over and over again since the day I had my stroke, 20 years ago. When one is tired, feeling overwhelmed by the once simple tasks that have become difficult, as is often the case post-stroke, (even for a 20 year survivor), and perhaps one is flirting with depression as well, it is easy to lose sight of the joys and rewards that await us with the affirmative answer to the question posed a couple of sentences back, "am I really up for this?" Sometimes cajoling oneself into believing "of course, I'm ready for this" is what it takes to keep going. Just as I cajoled myself into answering, "yes, I AM up for this" when I made the decision to adopt Izzie and Augie, my two beautiful 4 month old kittens that have quickly become the joy of my life, challenges and all! "Yes, I am" is a good starting point.
It's been a long time since I've visited the Strokeboard. No excuses, I just haven't, but this morning I ran across the following quote and thought it was a good place to start the weekend...to start and finish any day!
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” - Viktor Frankl
Attitude is everything. It affects everything we do, why not make it work for you rather than against you. Live
re-abled! What can you do today that you couldn't do yesterday? Even the smallest of accomplishments matter!
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Last year was rather abysmal because, after I broke my heel in February, I was compelled to cancel all my one-handed cooking demonstrations. But its a new year. My heel is almost good as new and I'm eager to get moving again! I now have a dozen or so demos scheduled from now into September and my first one of 2015 is tomorrow at UC Davis Medical Center.
Being jazzed about my demos has jazzed me up about my website, onehandcan.com, too. I've decided to add a new page to my site..."One hand can do this gallery". Right now its all about me, which I hate so I'm throwing it open to everybody. Email your photos of you doing "your thing" one-handed to email@example.com with your name and a brief description. No inappropriate, obscene or X rated photos please. My site is "G" rated. I will include as many of your photos as I can. Let's show the world what we are capable of with one hand!
Please send photos at 72dpi and not too large. Also include a brief note giving me your permission to edit, (for sizing), and to publish your photo(s) on my website.
Thanks. I look forward to seeing your photos.
Anyone who has lost a pet must know the grief that has befallen me this week with the death of my beloved cat, Rocky. I had Rocky for 14 years. I won't trivialize her or her passing with all the usual platitudes. Suffice it to say, I'm struggling to take one step then another and another. Tears flow at the thought of her and still I move one foot in front of the other again and again and; I am reminded of the struggle and strength and tears it took for me to learn to take that first step after my stroke. Then I had to learn to live without as well, but then it was without the use of half of my body. My memories of Rocky will always live inside me as will the memories of having use of my whole body. I will always know the taste of the grief of these losses.
If history serves I will also know, once again, that each step forward gets a bit easier, a bit less wobbly as long as I'm willing to take that step. If I allow it, I am certain I will be swallowed up by grief. I know I'm not headed in that direction no matter how forced my actions need to be right now because last week I began scheduling my "One Hand Can Cook!" presentations again for stroke support groups and rehab facilities. If I reach out my hand someone will take it. In offering support I receive it.
I am grateful for the years I had with Rocky and for the strength I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Beginning in 2003 I observed 3 years of my life pass me by from my recliner. Unbeknownst to me I had fractured a vertebrae, which upon fracturing shot off bone fragments that lodged in my sciatic nerve root. The pain was excruciating and for years the source of the pain was hidden from all the experts inspite of repeated MRIs, X-rays, tests, medical consultations, etc. I wouldn't wish that pain on my worst enemy, but I learned something from living with the pain. Even pain can be perceived in different ways. I wrote the following poem to express a change in the perception of my pain. "We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." (Quoted from Bertha Calloway)
Birthing of Angels
My eyes closed
Just long enough
To see it.
My heart opened
Just deep enough
To feel it.
My breath expanded
Just full enough
To take it in and
My spirit stood
Just tall enough
To embrace it.
I am changed
As that of
Life is a collection of choices we make or allow other people to make for us, either way, consciously or not. Following my stroke I made a VERY conscious choice to not curl up and die, not to see myself or be seen in the world as disabled. I made the choice early on to live my life RE-ABLED. I'm often challenged to continue to be true to that choice because life post stroke has thrown me some nasty curve balls that, after eleven surgeries, have left me with constant pain in my back, arms, hands, shoulders...you get the picture. Even then, I brought a lot of that pain on myself by the choices I've made along the way. I didn't know how important it is, in my case was, to take special care to protect my "good side". Maybe I should have allowed myself to ask for a little more help. Maybe I should have reevaluated my capabilities post stroke rather than charging into everything as if I still had a completely functional body. I don't, so I often over compensated by getting the job done with half a body and with little if any consideration of the consequences.
My body is broken, my spirit is not. I have down days, certainly, especially when I'm alone like I am now. My beloved partner of 22 years is away for a week with her son and his family. It was my choice not to join them. As much as I hate being without her, I have always encouraged her to give up her mantel of caregiver, more her perception than mine, and go do...whatever. She needs time to NOT worry about me, to NOT concern herself with my needs. And I need my time and my space to do what I want to and to be with myself. It's difficult for sure because for some odd unknown reason when she is not around I feel more disabled even though I don't do things any differently than when she's home. Maybe It's just that I'm more aware of my limitations when I am alone. It's kind of a crazy thing, I'm absolutely capable of taking care of myself, but it's different when Carol is away. What's that about? I've got lots of time to think about it! But I still wholeheartedly believe that disabled is a state of being and re-abled is the act of doing. I choose to live re-abled daily, alone or not.
I will be presenting a free "One Hand Can Cook!" demonstration in Los Gatos, CA on Tuesday, September 8 at Good Samaritan Hospital, Mission Oaks Campus. The time is 3:00 PM. If you are in the area please join us. Come say hello following the demo. I'd love to meet you!
Check out my website, onehandcan.com