Tony Boxer


My name is Tony Boxer. I'm 56 years old. I'm a software engineer, and am (now) self-employed as a computer consultant. At the time of my stroke I was a Senior Staff Engineer at a disk drive manufacturing company. I also am a principal in a software company that has created software for Real Estate agents to use on handheld computers. I'm an optimist, and my personal philosophy is to make someone smile and laugh every day.


I've had various medical issues most of my life. I've had a form of Reactive Arthritis called Reiters Syndrome since I was 17. It causes my immune system to periodically attack different joints and connective tissues. As a result, I have fairly little defense against infections. I also get migraine headaches, have a hiatial hernia, stomach ulcers, acid reflux disease, a torn retina in my left eye, and other things to make life interesting.


In March of 2000 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That's a fairly long story, so if you're interested you can read it at A quick synopsis: The tumor is pressing on my brainstem, and since I have a history of serious infection following surgery I chose to have my tumor treated by Fractionated Stereotactic Radiosurgery at Stanford University. The radiation is working because the tumor is dying. The tumor left me with impaired hearing and balance, but otherwise no serious side effects.


Then, on October 10, 2001 I was at work when I got a slight headache on my left side and suddenly felt like I was drunk (and I don't drink). I had trouble speaking; my vision was impaired, and other typical signals of a stroke. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize the signs, so I got into my car and drove home. It was 4:30, so I had enough sense to not drive the freeway during rush hour, but the trip home was interesting. When I got home my wife called 911, and over my objections, off to the hospital I went. I was sent home at about 9:30 PM, having been told I had experienced a TIA. About three hours later, I began to sweat profusely and have uncontrollable spasms in my left arm and leg. I woke my wife and told her to get me back to the hospital. As we were walking across the parking lot, I collapsed and she had to drag me into the ER. A full-blown brainstem stroke was in progress.


This was my introduction to the world of brainstem stroke survivors. I initially had very little use of my left side, including facial and speech issues. I had difficulty swallowing, major balance problems (I'm sure the tumor damage contributed) and incontinence problems. I was supposed to go to a rehabilitation hospital for 2 - 4 weeks of therapy, but I guess I'm an extremely lucky brainstem stroke survivor since I was sent home after two days because I could get out of bed and walk myself across the hospital room with a little support from the bed table.


Since the stroke I have regained almost full use of my left side. Being ambidextrous probably helped quite a bit. I had to teach myself how to use my left hand again, and how to type. I still make mistakes typing, and sometimes experience "brain freeze" when I can't think of a word or remember something. You couldn't tell I am a stroke survivor by looking at me unless I am tired. Unfortunately, I get tired very easily now, so I take lots of naps during the day. I still need a cane to help with my balance but I'm working on not using it and can get around without it as long as there are things I can use for correcting my balance (like walls, chairs, cars, people, etc). I still have trouble swallowing, so have to dip my chin down when swallowing, and of course I have to control my fluid intake when I know I'm going to be away from home for any time.


I think a positive attitude, a good sense of humor, and a refusal to give up has been what made my recovery a success.



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