A Stroke Can Ruin Your Plans #grateful #ThankfulThursday #Stroke #writersplans #writer #gratitude

What is “a plan”?

A fabulous idea? A well-thought-out decision? An established work routine? A detailed project?

My life has always been full of plans, defined by all of the above descriptions.

I have been absent from social media (and much more) since October 26, 2016: the moment when all my “plans” were put on hold.

I had a stroke. A stroke.

I can’t believe, even at this point, that I’m saying those words.

Even though I always struggle to lose a few pounds and could exercise more, I’m a writer and spend a lot of time sitting at my desk on the computer. In the past few years, I’ve always tried to eat healthy, no sugar, no salt, no fried foods. I haven’t had any problems that would have prepared me for this. My only bad habit was not getting enough sleep sometimes, or not managing my stress very well.

On October 26, I slept in for a bit. I had a busy day planned, and was looking forward to making progress on my edits on Book 2 of my series.

I woke up at 8:30 a.m., stood up, and collapsed onto the floor. My right side was paralyzed, although my conscious mind didn’t realize it at that moment. I’m a tosser and turner when I sleep, and I guess I thought I had slept wrong, that my arm and leg were asleep. I pulled myself back onto the bed and went back to sleep.

Much later that afternoon, I woke up and got out of bed. I was able to walk, although shakily, into the hallway, and then hit the floor again. As I lay there trying to determine how to get back to my bed, I fell asleep again. Another two hours passed before I was awake again, still on my back on the hallway floor. This time, I knew something was wrong, but the word “stroke” never entered my mind. Somehow, I was able to drag myself back to the bed, and before I could figure it all out, I was asleep again.

I finally made it to the hospital later that night. Most of the next thirty-six hours of my life are gone from my memory, although hopefully not forever. Once in awhile, I do remember bits and pieces, but I was diagnosed with an ischemic stroke – superior left temporal lobe. My arm and leg were very weak, but no longer paralyzed. But I couldn’t speak. I could understand the conversations around me, but I couldn’t answer the questions the doctors were asking me. My mouth didn’t work. And those of you who know me know what a disastrous situation that was!  I tried to write notes on a pad, but I couldn’t write, either.

I spent a week in the hospital under the care of the most wonderful doctors and nurses who kept my spirits high, and who celebrated with me as I was able, slowly but surely, to speak again. They are my heroes.

The weeks that have passed since have been very hard, but I’m not complaining. I could have come home in a wheelchair, unable to take care of myself, or with serious disabilities that would alter the rest of my life. God’s hand was on me, that’s a fact.

Since November 2, I have been to more doctors than I ever wanted to see in my life. I have had some tremendous help from skilled and talented therapists. My speech therapist, Jenny, has saved me! I’m still having language problems (aphasia), some short term memory problems, and a few physical (muscular) issues, but I seem to be getting better every day. The doctors and therapists say “Slow down, be patient, it takes time.” These are not my most endearing qualities, but I have come to realize now that I have no choice. My body with heal at it’s own pace. They say it may be a year or more, but they expect me to recover. (Thank God for that!) So, it is what it is.

The tests have not yet indicated what caused the stroke, but they think it was atrial fibrillation. I am now wearing a device planted in my chest over my heart that sends an EKG to my doctor’s office every 24 hours, monitoring my heart for the irregular, random heartbeat that will confirm that diagnosis. (Technology is incredible.)

The reason I’ve bored you to death with all this is three-fold. First, I wanted to explain where I’ve been since October.

Second, I wanted to share this life-changing experience. Someone who reads this might recall it if they have a similar situation; be able to recognize what is happening so they can get help right away. There is a clot-busting medication that can be given if they catch a stroke in the first three to four hours that can prevent too much brain damage. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize what was happening to me, and I missed that window.

This has been an incredible learning experience for me. It is one thing to know that you should take care of your body so you can live a healthy, fulfilling life, but it definitely takes on a different meaning to look at the same subject from the other side of the equation after an experience like this.

Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, stroke kills 2 times as many women as breast cancer. Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths. On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes. About 75% of those are people 65 years old or older, but the remaining 25% happen to anybody at any age. It can be the result of an injury, plaque in blood vessels, a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain that deprives oxygen to the blood cells.

If you don’t know much about a stroke, I invite you to educate yourself on the subject. Take some time for yourself and your health, and read about high blood pressure, stroke, and atrial fibrillation.

Visit http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/ or http://www.stroke.org/ or https://www.stroke.org.uk/   to learn more. Read about children, teenagers, conditioned athletes, and men and women of all ages who have had strokes. Realize that it can happen to anybody.

The third reason for this blog today is because I wanted to see if I could “write” again. This is the first time I have tried to write anything since my stroke. I hope my words make sense to you.

As I continue my recovery and deal with the physical and emotional toll that this takes on me, I realize this has changed my life in many ways. It has strengthened my faith, it has given me a new definition of “hope,” and has given me a close-up look at what I am able to achieve every day.

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I want to thank all of you that have stayed with me on Twitter and Facebook. I am grateful for your messages of love and support.

Thank you also for retweeting my book in my absence. I have the next two volumes of the series written and have received the edits back from my editor. As soon as I am able to get those done, I will be publishing.

Thank you to my close friends who have kept in touch all this time, encouraging me and caring about me on this journey. You know who you are, and I love you all. You feed my spirit.

And thank you for taking the time to read this.

Today, and always, I am #grateful.

-Scarlett

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What color is “teal”? and what does it have to do with my writing? #WriterWednesday #amwriting #author #writer #writersproblems #blindness #NFB

What color is “teal”?  Imagine, for a just a moment, trying to describe that color, or any color, for that matter, to a blind person.

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I grew up with blind parents. This had its disadvantages, of course, but the older I get, I realize that there were important advantages, too.  More on that later…

A few years ago, “teal” became very popular in fashion, design, and decorating. I took my mom shopping for a new outfit one day, and was describing an attractive suit to her as she gingerly touched the dress, feeling the collar, the sleeves, and the way the dress was made.

“What color is it?” she asked.

“Teal,” I responded.

“What color is teal?”

Hmm.

Have you ever tried to describe a sunset to someone who has never seen a sunset? Have you ever tried to describe a color to someone who is blind?

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And what does that have to do with my writing? 

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As a reader, sometimes I find myself getting annoyed with long, detailed “description,” and begin to skim the page.

As a writer, I admit, I am guilty of superfluous description, and spend a great deal of time editing my manuscripts to correct that issue. It is a natural tendency I possess, and more often than not, I’m unaware that I’m doing it. I suppose that is the result of having spent my life describing the world that I see to my parents.

My mom was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease of the retina. As a young girl and through her teenage years, she could see well enough to see colors (she has a vivid memory of the primary colors) but she quickly lost her remaining sight as she became a young woman. For a while, she still had “light perception”… best described as walking into a dark room where there is a light on and being able to see the contrast between dark and light…but lost even that bit of her remaining vision when I was a young child.

My dad lost half of his sight as a child due to deep cataracts on his eye. At that time, they didn’t remove the cataract, they removed the eye. He had a prosthetic eye, and developed another very large cataract on his other eye, which progressively diminished his remaining vision.By the time the laser surgery for cataracts was perfected, the cataract was so large and so deep, the doctors were afraid to remove it, fearful that he would lose what little vision he had left. Dad had what we call “travel vision”… he could see just enough, in most cases, to get around by himself without a guide dog or a white cane.

My brother and I have had a wonderful life, despite our parents’ handicaps. My mom has always said, “My biggest problem with being blind is a sighted person’s misconception about blindness.”  I have tons of stories to illustrate that point. Perhaps some day I’ll write a book about it.

But back to the subject at hand…

I have had writer friends ask me to read their WIP, asking if they have enough “description” in a particular passage. This always makes me laugh, thinking “You certainly asked the right person about that!”

Hopefully, in my own writing, I have avoided droning on and on in my description of a scene. Maybe I’ve reached the right balance, since many who have read my book have made comments like “I felt like I was in the room!” or “I could literally see your book unfolding like a movie before my eyes as I read it.”  These comments, while completely unsolicited, make me smile, and make me feel as if  I’m successfully avoiding “description overload” with my writing.  It truly is like fighting something that is part of my nature…something unconsciously ingrained in the way I write and the way I talk.

So, what color is teal?  What color is fuchia? Burgundy? Silver? Turquoise? Azure?

How would you describe a sunset, or the ocean, or a shuttle launch, or a tabby kitten’s fur to someone who is blind?

Just think about it…

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Lessons Learned.

It’s been two months since my last post, and I have decided, if I’m going to maintain this blog/site, I have to do much better.

My last post, “An Unplanned Post…” was the result of possible good news about a dear friend who was very ill. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way…she passed away the following week, and I went into deep mourning. Never again will I find her sometimes funny and always thoughtful emails in my inbox. Never again will we enjoy laughter and conversation on the phone. She’s gone. Period. I know others have felt her loss, but that doesn’t, in any way, diminish my loss.  My parents always taught me to live my life with gratitude, but it was difficult to be “thankful” when mourning the loss of someone I loved.

I have learned many lessons this year, especially as I look back on the adventure of publishing my first book. They ranged from “Oh yeah!  So that’s how you do it!” to “I truly cannot believe this…” As far as publishing the book is concerned, I know the second volume of the series will be easier because of what I’ve learned.  If I don’t use those lessons to do better in the future, then shame on me.

I imagined taking a well-deserved and much-needed break at the end of March. That never happened. You know, the old “Best laid plans….” thing.

During February and early March, I knew I was experiencing some health issues, but I was so focused on the release of my book, I ignored them. Shame on me. Shortly after publication, I went to my doctor for a physical, and everything was diagnosed. Thankfully, (there’s that “gratitude” thing…) some turned out not to be as serious as I imagined, and the issues that were indeed, serious, are being successfully treated.

During that time, as I spent every week at a different doctor’s office having tests, or at imaging centers for scans and xrays, there was also an extremely serious issue going on with my mother’s health. Between my own health issues, taking care of my family, work, and as always, trying to “be there” for friends who were experiencing their own difficult times,  I was unconsciously depleting my energy, both physical and mental.

And then one day, the Wicked Dark Depression came knocking at my door.

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However, I am thankful (there’s that “gratitude” thing…again) that I had responsibilities, both personal and professional, that made me keep going, when all I really wanted to do each and every morning was crawl back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and shut out the world. Instead, I defiantly held my head up, taunting that dark shadow. “You won’t get me this time!” Many things gave me the strength I didn’t realize I possessed, including a small group of friends whose supportive, cheerful words made me smile at least once a day.

Even with my own health issues, I’m thankful they’re treatable. Unfortunately my friend was not so lucky. I am very aware, that no matter how bad my “problems” seem to be, I never have to look too far to see someone whose issues are much more serious than my own.

I am also aware that my success as a writer, AND as a person, depends on ME. One of the more painful lessons I’ve learned is that I can’t always depend on others to do as they say they will.  Conversely, one of the most wonderful lessons I’ve learned is that help and support sometimes comes from the most unexpected sources. And sometimes, there will be that one person who appears at that precise moment I need help and encouragement the most.

We live, we learn.

I am grateful to have my life, to have friends and family who care about me, and to have the ability to realize that sometimes, I really don’t “know it all.”

I’ll take those lessons and use them all to be a better version of ME.

Thank you for reading, for sharing, and most of all, for your support and encouragement.

And now, I shall return to what I love the most… writing.

Stay tuned…

Scarlett

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