One of the good things that happened to me as a result of having a stroke is that I have lost my fear of doctors. Like many men, I went through much of my life without regularly seeing a doctor. Hell, until two years before my stroke, I didn't have a doctor. All that's changed now.
I paid as much attention to selecting a doctor post stroke as I did to making a purchase choice for a high end consumer item. As a result of my stroke, I quickly realized that seeing a doctor regularly would be a big part of my recovery.
My older feelings about the state of medical arts practitioners have been shaped by a lifetime of seeing docs who practiced rough medicine. I"m naturally curious and would grow tired of physicians who provided incomplete answers to my questions. As I got older, I became resentful of being treated like an uneducated villager who shows up at a doc's office bearing a torch and carrying some strange piece of gooey space debris that crashed though my thatched roof and promptly ate my cat.
Like I said, my feelings about medical professionals have changed a lot since i had my stroke. When I ask my doctor a question now, I make sure I get an understandable answer. I've learned that good health requires good communications and it's this trait that I look for in a doctor. Finding a medical professional with a sense of humor also helps.
Central to my stroke recovery has been the ability to communicate and my insistence that questions I ask my docs be answered. And this includes the need for invasive diagnostic procedures. Thus far, I've had a uroscopsy and a symoidoscopy. The idea of a sygmoidoscopy was something I really dreaded until my primary care provider, the good Doctor Rick Pantarotto of the Kaiser Foundation sensed my apprehension and said "this is nothing, compared to the uroscopsy you've already had."
His reassurance, as well as that of two good friends, Dr. Andy Sobieski on the SF Peninsula and Dr. John Champlain in Sacramento, set my mind at ease. It also made me see an opportunity.
So...two days before the Fantastic Journey, I printed up an iron-on stencil for a new sparkly white t-shirt. Right before I left for my symoidoscopy appointment I slipped into my t-shirt which on its back (where it could be plainly seen by the Physician's Assistant performing the procedure was the message: "I surrendered my dignity at Kaiser on 10/17/2007."
I still hear about that t-shirt when I visit my doc.
Another message I got from my friends in the healing arts and my doc was to "use this part of my life to get a hobby." I recognized that brain surgery wasn't an option and that I had a lot of land, so I started gardening. I spend about two hours a day most months out in my gardens or playing around with the ever expanding stone fruit trees I've planted. Gardening is a hobby that keeps me in the sun and forces me to use my afflicted left hand. It also results in my growing my own produce and fruit and staying in sync with the seasons.
It's an inexpensive hobby. I finance it by using my rolled change to buy seeds, starter plugs, and bags of steer manure. And besides, I've discovered that nurseries are pretty calm places for retail therapy. They're also inhabited by funny vicious cats patrolling for rodents.
It's too bad I can't train my two useless cats to hunt gophers too.
An active hobby keeps me from isolating-- something many stroke patients do-- Today, I'm much less self-conscious about the permanent effects of my stroke and much more willing to go out in public on my own.
There are a couple of other things I've done in the period since my stroke that have helped improve my self-esteem. I got a dog and I made a decision that no matter what my condition in life, that I would continue to be an active member of my family. My daughter is just about done with college so my days of paying tuition are nearly at end and I'm building a granny flat for my 89-year-old mother here at Rancho Bizarro South I love being a member of my little dog's pack nearly as much as I love being a son, a father, a brother and a friend.
I've also learned that while I can no longer write legibly with my left hand, I can write a blog. Blogging about my experiences recovering from a stroke has been a hoot. I do it most often by the dim glow of a USB-powered light early in th morning. What I've tried to share with my stroke blogs is that I've found it possible to not only do the thing I use to love, but that my world and I am open to new experiences and opportunities.--Jim Forbes 01/26/2008.