Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Finding Solace and Peace After a Stroke

After your stroke, where do you find peace and solace? Last week, I talked about gardening and the death of my much loved bunny. I know Diane over at Pink House on the Corner is mourning the ten year anniversary of her late husband's stroke and his subsequent death. Others like me, are uncelebrating their stroke anniversaries or deaths of loved ones even dumb animals.

I'm also combating cancer, again. I'm undergoing treatments again, but this time as a patient. We are slowly coming out of virus lock downs. I still haven't had my biannual haircut so my hair is aggravating me. I need to have it cut before it starts falling out. Not much is more devastating than finding huge clumps of hair on your pillow each morning. I usually avoid this by cutting my hair to 3" around my head before treatments start but I couldn't this time. It doesn't seem so bad when it happens. I know this is a psychological trick, but it helps me.
It all keeps piling up and on my huge line backer shoulders.
I could start spouting platitudes like 'God doesn't give us more than we can handle,' and 'That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger,' or better yet, 'This is the easiest cancer to cure.' Doh! I know this I've beaten it before and it came back!!

Everyone has a point when they need to fall back, regroup, and recharge so they can keep on surviving. You may not wanted to survive your stroke, but guess what, you did. You had to put on your big girl panties and deal.  You've had your fifteen minutes on the pity pot and didn't want to get off. I've been all these places too and right now, I have felt like Atlas carrying the world on my shoulders.  
No, please don't feed my pity pot monster.  
It's big enough!
I pulled myself off the pot already. I escaped into my usual place for solace and peace. Within me, as a Christian, I rely on the Holy Spirit and I lean on my Heavenly Father. I go into a trance like state while I physically do other things like pulling weeds, planting seeds, and watching nature. Being in turmoil is nothing new between my Father and me. It seems I'm always asking "why?" and "help me understand!" Eventually, the answers either come or don't come, but I feel better. I'm consoled and at peace again. In a way it's quite irritating. It's like demanding an answer from someone and getting so much warm fuzzies that I don't realize until much later that He didn't answer my demand. But that's okay, it's worth the consoling peace and sense of well being I feel. This works for me.

 Some others meditate, it's basically the same thing. You are centered afterwards. Others will pray and only pray. Others will let it all turn to anger. This is the dangerous type. They strike out at everyone within reach and 'scream' at the top of their lungs. If this releases them and they come away calmer, this isn't necessarily bad. But if it turns inward and festers it accomplishes nothing. I won't go into the self-destructive behaviors here, but others also do this. 

I've spent decades dealing and counseling folks. I'll escape as often as I need to. I learned how bad and self-destructive I can be to myself. I am and always will be a recovering alcoholic and heroin abuser. It's now been over half my life free of this abuse, but I'm still in recovery. Just like my living post stroke or recovering from grief. It never ends it will always be part of who you are. It's what you do with it that makes the difference. I choose life whatever that may entail. I put my big girl's panties and armor of God's Word on every day.

Where are you in this equation? Find your place for emotional solace and peace no matter what happens. Know how you reacts when the pressure mounts. Find your relief valve and run to it. Is your relief valve not working, be adventurous and find a new one. There isn't a one size fits all. You have to find what works for you.

Nothing is impossible. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday Stroke Surivival: Adaptive and Nonadaptive Gardening Post Stroke

Thia year we broke apart the pallet elevated raised bed planter boxes. They were honestly falling apart. Mel only put two screws on each side. We plan on moving them to a new location too.

My perennial herbs, such as oregano, sage, and thyme, will be thinned and transplanted. The oregano is one solid root mat and the six plants I planted three years ago is now about forty plants. While the four sage plants are still only four, they are 3' high and about that wide also. Everything is so cramped so transplanting them is a good thing. They'll be healthier and happy after the transplanting in the revamped pallet elevated raised beds.

We are trying something new in the garden this year...wicking pots.
Cockeyed Homestead ©All Rights Reserved

 These are 3-5 gallon buckets. This is Mel's experimental garden for this year, She is hoping to cut out weeding all together, Meanwhile, I hand weeded the rest of the garden for a neighbor to till under for us. I still haven't figured out a safe way for me to operate my tiller yet one-handed. With four motorized, sharp steel tines in motion, it sort of ups the ante safety wise. The weeds you see in the short video are wild violets, plantains, and strawberries. I pulled the rest.

The chickens and bunnies have enjoyed the fruits of my labor. They also make tasty additions to our nightly salads too. And to think, most people just toss them away into the trash or compost bin as weeds. Such a waste. Waste not, want not. It's free food.  But hand weeding a garden plot is precarious after a stroke. I pull or dig out the plants by the roots. Some weeds are deeply rooted and take some hard tugging to remove them. Enter my converted toy box on wheels. I love my DIY project! If my hinny is planted firmly, I won't throw my balance off. Of course, it means standing up and rolling it a bunch of times, but it's better than falling and I get the job done.

I adapted my rows for in ground vegetable planting along the Square Foot gardening method with companion planting and the Three Sisters gardening method. Only two rows are 26' long for tomatoes and the three sisters. All the rest are blocks no longer than 8' long and 4' wide. This way the garden is easier to tend and harvest. My walkway paths are 3'-4' wide. I grow vertically when I can. We pound T-posts into the ground and space them 4' to 6' apart along the rows. Then we attach wire fencing to the T-posts. The vegetables are supported and can climb up the fencing. It makes for better control over sprawling plants and easier harvesting for me. The less stooping or bending over is better for the fencing gives me a way to regain my balance easier so I don't fall.

So there you have it, my weeding and vegetable strategies for my adaptive and nonadaptive garden for living post stroke. It takes a lot of hard work for a weed free garden and make it adaptive so I can grow it, but the taste of a sun ripened tomato over the gassed grocery store tomato is worth it.

On a sadder note, a rabbit I'd had before my husband died went to join him in heaven two days ago. Buddy Baby will be sorely missed for the smiles she gave me for the last six years.

I'll never forget her antics of tossing things around because they weren't to her liking especially when I cleaned her cage and didn't put things back exactly where they should be. She had a way of communicating her needs to me by showing me what she wanted. The ways she found to be on my husband's hospital bed even in it's highest position just to be cuddled and snuggled by him. Or, just lay beside him while both of them napped. How she used to play hide and seek, peek-a-boo by throwing her flannel blanket over her head and peer out from an edge, and tag with me always brought giggles and smile no matter how down in the dumps or busy I was. She was my little buddy and now, will be forever. RIP Buddy Baby.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Living Post Stroke

In ten days it will be my 8th anniversary of my first stroke. This time of year I tend to evaluate my recovery that I've made. This is hampered my reoccurring strokes since my first one setting me back to almost square one with each new stroke. They effected the left side of basal ganglia part of my brain like the first one. I have to say it is old hat and quite frustrating.

But then again, I'm extremely thankful the new strokes didn't happen in another part of my brain like affecting my left. functioning side. I'd really be in trouble then, wouldn't I? I'd be up the creek with paddles, but no functioning arms to paddle with. Anyone who has suffered multiple strokes on both sides of the brain can attest to this.

In the last year of living post stroke, I've had a baclofen pump installed which worked beautifully. I was winning the war against the progressing, constant post stroke spasticity. This is before an infection caused it to be removed. I spoke to the neurosurgeon who did the placement last week via telemedicine. There was no way I was driving to Atlanta with it's over 4,000 active cases of COVID-19. I'm just saying. He asked if I was ready to have a new unit installed. I told him that again I was dealing with thyroid cancer. Can you still call it thyroid cancer if you no longer have a thyroid gland? I dunno. He was shocked but let me know when this virus thing was under control and my cancer was gone, that he would make himself available. That's good to know. I'm still n the fence about it. I mean dying and all, it has my thumb wavering between yea and nay.

So my post stroke recovery progress was hopeful, but ended up being nil.

Having said that, I made progress and gained confidence in trying new ways to adapt. I've taken over the full garden again. So I'm not only the one that prepares and preserves our food, but produces it as well.  My corn, green beans, and English peas are up and growing in the garden. I'm already cutting radish greens, lettuces, and spinach. I did miss my homegrown salads so much. I made it down and back up the twenty foot, 45 degree slope picking up kindling for our wood stove this winter without my cane. I only fell once, but I got up and continued. I've got my 5th new AFO fitted. I ended up buying my shoes for the first time since my stroke. GRRR! I only walk with a slight limp without all the rockers. Only slightly unbalancing, but not bad.

I've lost the battle with my post stroke spasticity and the pain is back for now. The war is still raging on. There has to be an answer out there.  One that won't cause major problems like dying. My neurologist told me they now have a neurosurgeon who can perform the same surgery with the pump in Athens. It's still 60 miles from home, but it only takes an hour to drive there instead of two to three hours to Atlanta. But I "love" my neurosurgeon at Emory. I don't have to make that decision for a few more months. Who knows, maybe it will be a mute point in the end. Time will tell.

I'll keep this short and semi-sweet this week. I'm back in full gardening mode.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Attitude is Everything!

Attitude is everything or effects you and everything around you. It's true. Think about it.
A negative attitude (I've had sporadic bouts with) ...
  • is the reason behind most fights.
  • is the start of a bad day.
  • is the reason you're tired all the time.
  • is the route towards depression.
  • is the reason you don't have any friends
  • is the reason ailments are worse than they are.
  • is the reason you don't heal as fast as others.
  • is the reason others shy away from you.
  • is the reason you are miserable.
  • and lastly, it's self perpetuating. 
 Conversely, a positive attitude (I try to maintain)...
  • is in peace keeper mode.
  • is finding the silver lining in every bad situation.
  • is energizing.
  • is combating depression one episode at a time.
  • is the reason you have friendships on multiple levels.
  • is remembering something can always be worse and being relieved that it isn't.
  • is a proven fact that it promotes faster healimg.
  • is the reason folks flock to be near you.
  • is the reason you are happy despite the circumstances.
  • and lastly, it's contagious.
Contagious is a bad thing considering most of us are wary of catching COVID-19. It doesn't have to be a negative. It can be a positive too as in this case.

You know the old saying, misery loves company? I know you've had to say or think it at least once in your life. I know I have too many times. There should always be a grace period of three days. Or, as my grandmother used to say, "Even dead fish stinks after three days." That's the longest a person should have to endure being around someone with a negative attitude or they'll run the risk of the negativity overwhelming them.

For the person with a negative attitude to three days of grace is important also, it becomes a habit. It's a way to justify them feeling lousy and not doing something about it. At first they use it to draw others to them. As the negativity continues, they drive others away. Then, this feeds the negative attitude.

While I'm a realist, I don't feed my negative attitude. I remain silent and not give it a voice. I look instead at a positive aspect in whatever is happening to cause the attitude. I did that in last week's post. I was feeling down, worried, and just plum tired of dealing with cancer again and living post stroke. It was beginning to overwhelm me to the point I couldn't function. I'd reached a point where I couldn't pray it away. For me, this is devastating. I had to turn it around. So turkey neck it was. I had a much better week because of it.

I could have stayed in that negative attitude until all of this was over, but I'd only be hurting myself. My roommate is in a constant state of depression and negativity. Every morning, the first thing out of her mouth after "Good morning" is a complaint. On really bad days, the it's a groan and a string of complaints. I have given up trying to cheer her up or put a positive spin on it. Instead I'll go outside to be greeted by happy critters for the first hour after she wakes up. I don't need the extra dose of negative attitude fighting my efforts to maintain my positive attitude. I'll come inside with some funny antic the critters did to break the cycle. I just choose not to go there.

That's the whole thing about your attitude. IT'S YOUR CHOICE. You choose each and every moment what attitude you portray. The only person you can change is you and nobody else. I choose my behavior to suit me. I used to say, "If you don't like the way I am, then YOU have a personal problem." It still rings true today because if I don't love me, I'm not happy. I change me because I feel the desire to change me not because you want me to. With Mel, I can't change her because she doesn't want to change. Again, it's a matter of choice. I can work around it and steer her (slightly) better attitude, or leave. I'm a peace loving sort so I change my behavior to coexist. Still, I'm hopeful that she will change. She's still a work in progress.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival:No Turkey Neck

Not me!I googled it.
Here I go again. I'm looking at the bright side of battling cancer.

One of the definite signs of aging is getting a turkey neck. Gravity is not your friend as you age. Everything sags. Your skin loosens as a result and the lower collagen starts to tell your age. Your boobs sag towards your belly button, your upper arms begin flapping, your bottom develops a flattened downward angle, and the skin on your jaw and neck forms puddles of loose skin.

I had noticed the former begin to show in my own mirror. My looks were changing. I doubt my own grandchildren would recognize me because I didn't recognize myself. I looked so old. When did that happen?

But getting back to my turkey neck, when I had my thyroid surgery a few months ago, my turkey neck disappeared! They had to cut out my previous scar out and it pull my neck skin tighter. Bonus of having cancer.

The surgery wasn't plastic surgery but the results were the same. My incision is just below the upper picture and right at the bottom picture cuts off. In effect I had plastic surgery without the insurance exclusion. Of course, unlike plastic surgery, there is a scar.

Thyroid cancer tends to metastasize to the lymphatic system, breast, lungs, and brain first. Well, with the lockdown most of us has suffered through, I need my hair cut anyhow. Wohoo, another breast reduction surgery and I'll lose weight without having to diet. Same thing with Chemo. I'll become svelte, exotic gypsy again. My hair will come back with even more thicker and wavy. Maybe, I'll even lose all of my leg and under arm hairs permanently. Wouldn't that be a joyous thing. No more struggling to shave them. Even more "plastic surgery" with removal of lymphatic nodes under my arms, neck, and jaw lines. I'll be one foxy looking chick after all this. Of course, I'll have new battle scars to show off too because it isn't plastic surgery.

I'm not being flippant. Maybe a little. I know this cancer is serious because it killed my mother. I took care of her and watched as she died. But I've already died once less than a year ago. I'm not afraid to die. Living with the aftermath of strokes has taught me surviving isn't all its cracked up to be. That's not to say, I want to die and won't fight to stay alive...I have and will continue to fight.

You know what they say, prepare for the worst and pray for the best. That's all I'm saying in this post. From previous experiences in battling this disease, I know a positive attitude and laughter is essential in winning the battle. Didn't my own husband live on another ten years after his prognosis of terminal/anytime? It's all about the way you want to live your life and how you want the memories to leave your loved ones. So many happy memories tips the balance in the sense of loss they will feel and grieve with smiles. He taught me that.

I lead by example because someone else showed me the way first through the years.

Nothing is impossible.