Recovery Can Be When Not If!


My name is Emily. In August 2015, at 25, I began my fourth year teaching public high school in Montgomery County, MD with unwavering confidence! (Fourth time was really the charm!)

My career was flourishing, I had a home with my then fiancé and I thought life was damn near perfect.

One weekend at the end of September, I fell asleep next to my then fiancé and woke to find three EMT’s in our bedroom telling me I’d had a grand mal seizure. I was confused and scared and remembered nothing of it. Otherwise, I felt fine. They ambulanced me to the nearest hospital where after CT and MRI scans, I was told I had a tumor in my right temporal lobe….and then I was transferred to University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

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I had a small back surgery with the same team of neurologists at UMD the summer before. They informed me that because of where it sat in my brain, they recommended that the best option to avoid chemotherapy and radiation of this tumor would be for them to go in there and take it out. It was big enough and far enough to the surface of my brain that there was a very low risk of complication.



The surgery went well. The tumor is now gone and because of its benign characteristics, I am now (7 months later) only getting brain scans every 6 months to monitor any new growth! (They are not expecting it to ever grow back.)

During the surgery however, there was a complication. It didn’t take them long to notice that I wasn’t moving my left side in the ICU….when the tumor was resected, the blood vessel that it grew from had to be severed..and it bled more than expected into my brain, causing stroke like damage.

I was angry in the beginning, knowing that I could’ve had a resection with no stroke complications…but I’ve never been one to quit fighting when times get tough in my relationships, in my classroom or in my health.

I woke up every day in Inpatient Rehab, ate breakfast (brain food!), washed my face, got dressed (it’s important to feel some kind of normal!) and worked my butt off to regain mobility. Walking came first – I went from bed to wheelchair to AFO and cane and then to discharge in three weeks!….I’m still hoping they put a bust of my face in the courtyard haha.

My fine motor left arm and hand coordination recoveries are ongoing. I am a music teacher so not being able to play piano with both hands is the biggest frustration at the moment, therefore the biggest incentive to rehab harder!

After I (and my family) went through the stages of Grief and Loss over my old normal, my mom and I adopted the mantra: “NOT IF, BUT WHEN!”

It’s amazing how positive thinking can propel recovery. And it’s amazing the things I thought were important before…life is so much more beautiful now. I wouldn’t choose to change this path of enlightenment I tread everyday.

I am now back to teaching full time (woohoo!) and living on my own again. I see my friends and family like a typical 26 year old and continue physical therapy (goal is to run!) and occupational therapy (goal is to play piano!)


I am thankful every day that I suffered no cognitive deficits from my stroke and I have plans in place to use the lessons I’ve learned through this experience to help other young survivors navigate rehabilitation with resilience and hope knowing they have friends that have made it through.


Thank you Saj, for opening a resource for us to all share our stories in solidarity!


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#strokevictor #strokefitness #tbihope

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