John lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and says he is grateful when June comes around since it is Stroke Awareness Month.
“Four years ago I had a stroke. I lost the ability to swallow and to move the left side of my body. I needed to relearn how to walk. I was unable to return to work and had to live on disability. I was not able to do things I once could. Exercise, photography, and model ship building, all became difficult.
“The story doesn’t end here though. In fact, this is where it begins.
“Within months of my stroke, after leaving the hospital, I sought out occupational and physiotherapy. I joined a March of Dimes exercise program to strengthen my legs and hand. I regained the ability to swallow. I walked, slowly and hesitantly at first, but faster each day. It was challenging but, with the help of my family who were instrumental in my progress, I was taking a step in the right direction.
“For survivors following a stroke, the most important thing is being self-directed. You have to realize that the doctors are not there to give you answers; they’re there to give suggestions. It’s up to you to follow what they say and to be proactive in seeking therapies. You have to fix yourself. I now work with stroke survivors and I’ve learned that every stroke is different and nobody can tell you what will work, but you must keep trying new therapies until you find out what does.
“Seek out helpful resources online. Following my stroke, I joined several online forums to talk to fellow survivors. It was comforting talking to people who’d experienced similar effects and it showed me how many were able to adapt following their attack. There are also informative websites such as www.beyondstroke.ca which helps stroke survivors on the long road to recovery with information and resources.
“I am now 58. Although I’m still unable to work, I am a volunteer working behind the scenes at a theatre company. I am an active recumbent cyclist and am getting back into photography. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s getting better. I am proactive and chose to take my life back. If you have survived a stroke, I encourage you to do the same. It only takes one step.”