A Year In The Life Post Stroke

Hello survivors, thrivers, caregivers and friends,

In celebration of the 1 Year Anniversary of Saj’s website, I’m back again to talk about what it feels like to be living a full life as a stroke survivor. For all my friends reading out there that may be in the early stages of stroke survival, I have good news:You WILL regain yourself. You WILL see life more beautifully. You are in charge of the journey ahead and you CAN come out on top!

ABOUT ONE YEAR AGO, OCTOBER 1 2015 – 25 YEARS OLD:

 

Life was halted when my brain tumor was discovered. I underwent a brain surgery, and my tumor hemorrhaged into my right temporal lobe. I woke up in the ICU paralyzed on my left side.

FIRST MONTH POST STROKE – I was in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. Finding the motivation to keep fighting for mobility through brain fog, fatigue and coping with what happened was tough, but the longing to get out of the hospital and home for the Fall holidays DROVE me to eat, bathe, get up and attend therapies. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE! I was discharged as “safe” enough to go home supervised on October 29th, 2015.

THE NEXT THREE MONTHS were out of the hospital and into my parents home attending outpatient therapies. I had to be supervised 24/7 when I was walking with my cane and showering. My independence was still out of my grasp…but every baby step I took confidently towards doing things on my own DROVE me to cherish each new task I mastered! Soon I was shuffling around the kitchen and making my own breakfast! Eventually I was confident enough in myself to take my first step without my cane in physical therapy! My independence was slowly being pieced back together! KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE!

JANUARY 2016 – I was cleared to go back to work when I felt ready! I was up on my feet, walking (albeit wobbly) with a custom AFO and continuing outpatient physical and occupational therapies as I moved into my new apartment on my OWN! The world definitely feels like a different place and I am much more careful. I drew a lot of attention with my AFO and wrist brace but instead of shying away I EDUCATED those curious enough to ask. I fought back the desire to hide away my physical differences and I re-entered the public eye exuding the light of my journey everywhere I went! Going back to work is indeed the best therapy, as your body and mind have no choice but to exercise the old muscles you are still so familiar with! My physical recovery escalated faster than I even realized. Before I knew it I was walking in physical therapy without my AFO. As my body began to get stronger, I started making short trips across the street without it. YOUR BRAIN WILL ADAPT!

**ONE YEAR LATER JANUARY 2017**: It’s been a year back to work, friends, nights out, vacations, dates, building even more strength in the gym, telling my story, and inspiring those around me. I walk without assistance and my next goal is running again! Let me finish up by giving a bit of advice on aspects of your life you can come to enjoy again!

 

WORK – It’s great to be back but of course, things are a little different. My short term memory isn’t as good as it used to be so I write myself a lot of sticky notes! Sometimes I get overwhelmed, sometimes I get tired, but when I feel myself crashing, I reorganize and re-prioritize. I make changes so that my health comes first and my work still gets done. You may not take on as much extra work as you used to, but you’re back! And that is the greatest triumph!

FRIENDS – the truest friends were there for you every step of the way. You will always be a triumphant, inspirational, stroke victor! Make sure you surround yourself with positive people that recognize that.

NIGHTS OUT – a gradual entrance back into the nightlife is best. Perhaps start with dinners with friends, house parties with people you know and love you, and movies. As you feel more comfortable enjoying yourself – keep it up! Experiment with your brain’s new tolerance! You’ll be surprised how well you can do. Good times make us happy. Being happy fuels our recovery and keeps outlook on life positive!

 

DRINKING – Be careful. Every brain is different. SLOW experimentation. I didn’t touch alcohol until 8 months after my stroke! Better safe than sorry 🙂 Now, I can enjoy responsibly.

 

DATING – Not wanting to lose any of my best years, I re-entered the dating world. It was a HUGE step and can really challenge your confidence, especially if you have residual physical challenges like me. “Should I tell them what really happened?” “Will it scare them away?” “Maybe I should say I just sprained my ankle,” are ALL things that floated through my conscious while I started dating as a stroke survivor. My advice is: OWN IT. UP FRONT. You are amazing. You are a survivor. YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION TO ALL. Acknowledge your journey to others before they have to ask. BE PROUD. YOU KICK ASS AND YOUR STRENGTH IS UNMATCHED. This may seem terrifying, but you don’t want to spend your time with someone who won’t accept you as you are once they get the full story. Weed out those weaklings up front and enjoy those who are attracted to you for your strength and resilience! 🙂

Credibility: I proved this for you all through trial and error over many terrible dates both as a self-conscious survivor and a confident survivor, haha. My current boyfriend acknowledges my strength first above all else and thinks I’m a badass. Rightly so 😉

GYM/WORKING OUT – GET MOVING! LIFT HEAVY THINGS! Trust me. Proven. Endurance starts small, with short sessions, but as you commit, you will gain energy, feel happier, start to see results and be SO proud of yourself! Don’t be shy if you have to adapt your fitness for any of your challenges. I SWEAR my physical recovery exploded when I started weight training. Add good nutrition and you will feel like a WHOLE new survivor 🙂 E-mail me or message me on Instagram for advice/hemiparesis adaptation techniques! 30lbs down, STRONGER THAN EVER, even with a partially weak left side!! Woo!

I hope my story as a functioning young stroke survivor gives you hope that life is not over! It may seem like a long road ahead, but with a resilient and gritty attitude, anything is possible! I appreciate the little things in life these days and live pretty simply, loving my strength, my story, my body and my loved ones. Your stroke will always be a part of you but it is your choice to embrace it and be an inspiration to others by kicking ass through the tough times and coming out the other side victorious!

Much love and positive energy to you all,

Emily Zmoda

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