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Still running after stroke

Have you always wanted to run? Do you have doubts about running after stroke? Please do NOT let your stroke stop you from running, or learning to run. If I did it, then anyone can do it!

My running story

Prior to my stroke in 2013, I would say that I was a reasonably fit person, although I never ran or took part in any basic fitness training. I would walk a lot and think that kept me fit. Around 10 months’ post stroke, following my post stroke depression, I met my personal trainer (and now great friend Melinda), and my positivity and zest for life began to return. I threw myself into fitness (sometimes to my own detriment as I would spend days in bed following a short mountain climb!). However I loved it. I loved the feeling of climbing to the top of a mountain or kayaking across the Pumicestone Passage where we live and just being with nature. Melinda taught me to focus on what I COULD do and not what I could not. I had limbs that worked so why not use them to their best advantage!10k fun run 2016

It was only during the early part of 2015 that I took up running and trained for a 10K. I started with a simple Couch to 5K  running app and it gave me the basics for running. Subsequently joining a running group and watching others who had begun to run following their own strokes, gave me that much-needed passion for being able to complete that first 10K run. Hard work and determination to succeed paid off. That same year, I completed my first 10K run and in a time of 69 minutes so I was very pleased with that. I ran the first 8.5K and only walked up a very steep hill near our local Shelly Beach. I completed the same run again in 2016 (in the howling wind and rain) and it took me two minutes longer. Here is a photo of my husband David and I in 2016, just before we ran the 10K fun run and I have been running ever since (sometimes on and off, when my health hasn’t been too good)

Goal setting

I thrive on setting goals, not only in my running life, but generally. I know that goal setting is not for everyone but it gives me focus and motivation. Roll on four years from my very first 10K run and with over 50 community park runs under my belt, I am currently training for the City2Surf 14km run in Sydney on 11 August. (Check out my very red face of me and my run buddy Lisa on our evening 10K training run earlier this week!) Having a run buddy is essential and Lisa and I keep other accountable.

Me and Lisa 10 k run photo

I am very much looking forward to the City2Surf and hope to run the whole 14k, whilst sharing awareness of stroke, supporting the Stroke Foundation and specifically the Little Stroke Warriors Group. The LSW was set up by two amazing mums, after their children were diagnosed with stroke. We are fundraising for this amazing cause and together, we have already raised over $2500. Thank you to those that have generously donated to my run and here is the link should you wish to donate a $1 or two! Every little helps share awareness and resources for parents who need to cope with their little ones going through a difficult stroke recovery.

As a stroke survivor, I do not believe the words ‘I CAN’T’ exist, so if you are physically able, don’t make any more excuses and start now!

Here are five tips worth knowing that have helped me run:

  • Manage your running with your fatigue and you will do OK (i.e. take rest before if needed and balance physical and mental fatigue pre and post runs)
  • Drink plenty of water before your run so you don’t become dehydrated
  • Try and find a running buddy to keep you motivated.
  • Find your local Parkrun. It’s free and it doesn’t matter how slow you go at first. Just keeping trying and there are plenty of people there to cheer you on.
  • NEVER give up trying. Always believe in yourself and you CAN do it if you really want to.

Here is a poem, entitled ‘I Did it!’ which is in my book A Stroke of Poetry and I wrote this, following my first 10K run. I share it often and know it inspires people to get out and run. It would be great if you could comment on this post and share your running tips and your achievements, however small they may be and let’s keep each other motivated.

                                                                                                                                                                 I Did It!

When we first came to Australia, seven years ago, this year.
Our Lady of Rosary was Patrick’s school. Many memories we still hold dear.
Each year they organise a fundraiser, held here on the Coast.

The Caloundra Foreshore Fun Run it is, and well attended by most.

There’s a 10K, 5K and so much more. It’s a beautiful family day.
You can even take a 3K walk and participate that way.
So, the first year I attended I did the 3K walk.

Run? No chance. You’re having a laugh. I’d much rather walk and talk.

As the years progressed, I saw those runners coming through.
I thought “Maybe, am I serious?  Is that something I could do?”
I’d watched my good friends running and some had suffered a stroke like me.
They’d trained and got so fit again. That’s where I aspired to be.

Even after my stroke recovery and getting fitter by the day.
Without the correct training a 10K run? There was no way.
So my friend suggested a personal trainer based here on the Coast.

If I joined their runners’ eight-week plan maybe a 10K I could then boast.

So, with my personal trainer, and boot camps through the week.

I added on the running course. I tell you it was no mean feat.  
Many mornings up at 5am. Is that really a time to rise?
Some training sessions were really tough. The trainers I grew to despise!

I hurt my knee on a training run. That really set me back.
Physiotherapy sorted that out, and the day came around real fast.
I was feeling very nervous but my mind set got me through.
If I was going to achieve this goal of mine. I knew what I had to do.

As I ran downhill to Moffat Beach, the finish line in my view.
I saw my son waiting to run with me. Tears welled and then I knew.
I’ve really gone and done it! I’ve actually run 10K.
A goal I thought I would never reach I well achieved that day.

Happy running and until next time, please stay stroke safe.

Shelagh


Brain pixabay pic

Losing your identity after stroke

Welcome back to my blog and even though it has been some time since I last wrote, I plan to be blogging more frequently, and I very much hope you enjoy what I have to say; so please feel free to share with others who may benefit from my words and perhaps leave me a comment as to what you would like to read.

In this blog, I would love to talk about the issue of losing your identity after stroke and specifically, the emotional side of stroke recovery. I was stirred to write this blog after receiving and reading a wonderful, insightful book about stroke identity (but I will come to that soon). Like many, I felt in the early days that my brain had been taken and replaced with one I did not want or even liked very much. I lost ‘me’ and so many parts of ‘me’ that I resented the person I was. My brain was slow and I had difficulty forming words and sentences. Bring on the depression and this made a great recipe for not being able to move forward with any form of positivity or focus. Does this resonate with my stroke survivor friends out there?

 

My brain worked in rhyme shortly after my stroke and this helped me enormously to deal with the emotions I was feeling;  such as the frustrations, forgetfulness and often sad times I was going through. For those who have read some of my poetry from my book A Stroke of Poetry, one poem entitled: Who stole my brain? is a perfect example of some of the emotions I felt following my stroke and I know these feelings are experienced by many stroke survivors all over the world. Who Stole my Brain poem.jpg 2

Perhaps this poem explains the seriousness of losing ‘me’ but a light-hearted touch upon the fact it is actually still OK to feel like this. As a Stroke Safe Ambassador, Motivational Speaker and passionate stroke advocate, I still campaign to have the voices heard of those who are struggling emotionally – what I refer to as one of the many invisible disabilities of stroke.

Now about this amazing book I mentioned and think we need a short drum role for the truly amazing Debra Meyerson and her recently published book Identity Theft – Rediscovering Ourselves After Stroke. I first connected with Debra, a former Stanford Professor, on Twitter some years ago, following her own severe stroke, as she was keen to conduct research with other stroke survivors. Many examples of those she has interviewed are featured in her book. Some, sadly, have not been able to accept their life changing stroke and thereby unable to move forward positively, but there are other examples of hope, inspiration and those who feel their stroke was meant to happen.Book cover - Identity Theft

Debras story and her own stroke recovery is inspirational and this book was written to help others cope with the emotional part of any stroke recovery. It follows her severe stroke that left her physically incapacitated and unable to speak and covers in detail, the emotional journey of her recovery, including the fabulous, selfless support provided by her husband and children.

I had many tears reading this book as although I am lucky to have been left with no physical disability, my early stroke recovery identified so much with Debras words, emotions and ‘day to day’ feeling of being lost in a person you once were and is the first book where I truly felt connected to what I suffered. Debra was kind enough to send me additional books so if you feel this is something you would like to read, drop me a message and let’s share the love and inspiration from the amazing Debra E. Myerson PhD.

Thanks for reading and always be ‘stroke safe’Signed copy Identity Theft

Shelagh

 

 

 

 


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My FIVE Stroke Survivor tips

Hi everyone.

I was recently invited by the Stroke Foundation, to be the guest opening presenter at a Young Stroke Survivors Positive Recovery Think Tank, held here on the Sunshine Coast, near to where I live (lucky for me not having to travel!). I love to take part in these events and get joy in sharing my story about stroke and how I recovered from my post stroke depression though poetry, exercise and positive thinking.

I was asked by the Stroke Foundation to list FIVE tips that I would share with the audience. This was not difficult to do as I live by them daily. Please let me share them with you here…

TIP NO. ONE – Awaken each day and pull on those positive pants!

original_positive-pants-good-luck-cardSometimes we awaken tired, grumpy, or with our head full of the huge list of ‘jobs’ we have to do that day. Maybe the weather outside is a little miserable, cold, and the sun isn’t shining. I have to say that sometimes I awaken like that but then I clear my mind of the negative things and work out how I will get things done with a smile on my face and not a scowl. However you decide to start the day usually means it will end like that, so pull on those positive pants and meet the day with focus and determination.

 

TIP NO. TWO – Focus on what you CAN do, not what you cannot.

can-cantAfter my stroke, over four and a half years ago now, I failed to focus on what I COULD do. I wanted my ‘old’ life back and was sad and frustrated that I could no longer do the things I once did, or that my brain would not work the same way. My personal trainer and my lovely friend Melinda taught me this tip. I know that it seems easy me sharing this with you all, but it does work! Once I stopped looking back to what I could no longer do and focus upon sharing my poetry with everyone, and using my able limbs to walk, climb and run, I soon realised there were so many things I could do. It doesn’t have to be poetry or exercise, but find something that gives you joy and focus on that. Go on..give it a go!

 

TIP NO. THREE – Be grateful

thANKFULOnce again, this sounds like a very simple tip. It actually is. Even though we may have had the worst day in our week, or feel we’ve had a terrible day for a variety of reasons, there is always something to be grateful for.  Your gratefulness could be simply for the gift of life, grateful that the sun shone and dried your washing, or that the bus arrived on time to take you to work. You may be grateful that you had movement in your limbs, that had not previously moved. Having a grateful heart makes us a better person. Go on, close your eyes and see what you are grateful for today. I bet you find something.

 

TIP NO. FOUR – Celebrate your successes, however small they may be

lets-celebrateI feel we should all celebrate our achievements and focus upon the positive and the smallest of ‘wins’ can change our mood and make us feel happy. I have a stroke friend who was recently able to tie his shoe laces. This task has taken months and we all celebrated this huge achievement with him. Can you remember when your child first walked or talked, or even tied their own laces? How excited were you for them?

Many stroke survivors have the smallest of goals to work towards so its important to celebrate these when they reach them. What’s your goal or something you have achieved recently?

 

TIP NO. FIVE – Love and live your life every single day

love_live_life_by_nikster08For those of you that follow my blogs, either on my website, on my Facebook page or on Enableme, then you will know how passionate I am about living my life to the full. Yes, I often do too much and my post stroke fatigue kicks in, but it doesn’t stop me. I love being outdoors, I love exercising by the ocean and in nature and spending time with family and friends just having fun. This year, I have added some slower, more mindfulness sessions to my life such as Tai Chi/Qi Gong and Yoga. Here on the Sunshine Coast I practice these in a beautiful environment at The Farm or with Dani. Perhaps find these slower forms of exercise that give time for just ‘you’ and share them with us.

I am not saying that you should follow these five tips, BUT they work for me and even if you haven’t had a stroke or a life changing illness, perhaps being more mindful about how you live your life isn’t such a bad thing. is it?

As always,

Stay healthy and happy.

Much love

Shelagh


it-is-what-it-is

Stroke fatigue – it is what it is!

I decided to publish this blog about post stroke fatigue because even though I am four years’ post stroke, I still get that feeling, quite unexpectedly, that I have been hit by a very fast freight train! For those who do not fully understand the fatigue suffered by stroke survivors, it is not like “Oh, I must close my eyes for a few minutes as I feel tired,” sort of feeling but it is an all-consuming fatigue that takes over your body and mind. Your limbs ache and throb, your migraine starts and you just cannot function and need quiet and rest. This fatigue can last for hours, days and sometimes weeks, dependent upon the person and their fatigue. To fully understand this fatigue, please watch this video prepared by the Stroke Foundation as it helps put things into perspective. Many of my close friends and family did not fully understand the fatigue I suffer until they watched this video.

As most of you know, I no longer ‘work’, as in paid employment but I am involved in a number of projects. Over recent weeks, I have been busy organising a Pop-up Book Shop, marketing my book A Stroke of Poetry, sending email information for my Stroke Safe Ambassador presentations, and conducting the presentations. I’ve been interviewed for articles in local magazines, Sunshine Coast Daily and taken part in a local radio interview. Also, as Vice President of the Vintage Calendar Girls Inc., I have been working hard helping with the administration, strategic planning, photo shoots and recently flew to Sydney with the VCG team to photograph Kochie, the Sunrise presenter, with our two lovely VCG ladies. Wow! I think I’m tired reading that! I tried to keep up with my running schedule but sadly, that fell by the wayside as I could feel my fatigue creeping in!

Two weeks ago, that all familiar freight train decided to stop at my station and linger a little too long for my liking, so I made the decision to cancel some arrangements and take a few days rest and now, seem to have bounced back. My husband, David, commented that a couple of years ago, I could only keep going at a moderate pace for 3 to 4 days before I crashed, and it would take a week at least to get me back on my feet. When you put it into perspective, then clearly my fatigue is improving, it’s just perhaps poor management on my behalf.

Many stroke survivors ask me how to manage fatigue and will it ever leave me? Having read this blog, I don’t think I am the best role model and believe it is something I have to live with and limit the number of projects I become involved with. As someone who likes to be on the go constantly, this is very hard for me and learning to say ‘No’ I find difficult. As David succinctly put it…”We need you too so please take care of yourself” and self-management is utterly important  to avoid crashing and having to rest for days after. I take the view “It is what it is” and although it provides such limitations, it is here to stay. 

For further advice from the Stroke Foundation, hop onto Enableme, as they have a host of amazing tips, blogs from other stroke survivors and some podcast information.

Please let me know what your advice is and how you manage your own fatigue and maybe I can share it around. Perhaps I can learn a few things myself. So, if you see me in an exhausted heap, just give me a hug, buy me a coffee and that will be the start to feeling better.

As always, stay healthy and happy.

Much love

Shelagh