So, do you know what the #1 Killer of Women is?  Heart Disease!

Earlier this month I saw that the NFL was going "pink" for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on tv and I thought aloud "Pink... they should have chosen heart disease to cover since it is the #1 killer of women and the color is red, which would look better than that ugly pink"  ...skip 1 beat, look at my husband as I say aloud what he is thinking  "Well... guys do care more about breasts than hearts!" We laughed together!  A funny moment for a not-so-funny topic. 

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my STROKE or as my first-born called it my "stroke-a-versary".  I know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but it will forever be JEN SURVIVED A STROKE MONTH in my household.

Forever! I will have to remember that on the eve of my stroke I sat disillusioned with my life. I was on the couch, alone, reflecting on my life. Miserable. Contemplating being done.  Upset with God that I could even think such a thing.  My first journal entry from that morning 10/27/2008 said:
"Lord, I am completely overwhelmed I cannot even write right now."
 Then 10 hours later I sat on the couch and wrote:
"Lord thank you for time alone. I don't know what you want to do in this time. God I am feeling myself slip. I am distancing, avoiding, hardening-I feel such anger, sadness, fear that I have a hard time breathing. I wanted to take this time and let you search me. I am afraid to deal. I really don't know where to start."
Then the list began... words on a page...too many to list... some too shameful to share
my marriage
our finances
the company
paperwork... ... ...
Three columns! a long list of real, imagined, past, present and future junk!

Here is the HEART:

"God I truly want to flee right now. It is not rational. I love my husband, my kids, my life. Why do I want to leave? I think things appear too big, too hard, too complex-and honestly I don't want to let you work on a lot of it. But I do. Why did You create me like this? Ugh!"
The next time I would return to that journal would be post stroke, post hospital stay, post realizing I had a brush with death.   I could not even face what I wrote on the eve of my stroke for weeks.  I knew.  I knew that I had wanted to die but GOD had allowed me to live.  

As my husband tried to wake me that Tuesday morning 1 year ago, I was difficult to understand.  Trying to figure out the best way for you to understand is difficult.  The best I can explain it is: as I spoke- in my head I sounded "normal" but my ears hearing my voice knew that what I was hearing didn't sound like what I said.  Then after the second time of me grumbling and not wanting to get up, I sat up, my hubby looked at my face. Now it is funny now...  but terror was what I saw. I laughed in my head thinking "what is the matter with him, he is freaking out, I mean come on, what is so bad, I just don't want to get up" Not having ANY idea that my face is crooked, my eyes are wandering and dropping and I look like a freak (to put it nicely).  He leaves the room to (unknown to me at the time) wake my 19  yr old daughter saying "get up I think your mom just had a stroke."  Nice to be waken to I am sure. Not.

Trent decides to try to get me up and I don't know what he thought he was going to do with me... but I am insistent that I have to take a shower.  Now all the while- to me--I AM NORMAL.  Trent is freaking!  I think it is funny.  He tells me my face is drooping, I know my speech is odd-I determine I have Bell's Palsy frustrated that I will have a temporary drooping face; I know it is temporary; I guess I'll go to the doctor, after my shower of course!  (I am still in bed at this point) Then I get up to walk--I couldn't.  I began to drift and could not walk straight.  My husband is in front of me (still freaking-I still think it is funny-past and present) trying to steady me.  Did I mention my vision was "off"  I wear glasses, but this was worse.  Very blurry, had to close one eye to see half-straight.  Then there was confusion.  Now, in my right mind, I would KNOW I didn't have Bells' Palsy-I was having a STROKE!  At the time, I had NO IDEA!  NO IDEA! 

As I stood, wobbly, swaying in the shower I nearly had a heart-attack (ha) as I opened my eyes after rinsing my hair because I felt someone staring at me (you know the feeling) and AHHH! There is Trent's face in the glass door and he yells "you better hold on to something you are going to fall" all serious looking.  Again, amusing to me at the time.  This man I love, absolutely  freaking out, while I am amused.  Thank God I was confused or I TOO would have been freaking.  Trent helps me dress, does something with my hair and we are off to the doctor.  Trent, Brit and I, we left Hunter asleep with a note saying "taking mom to the doctor" as we didn't want to worry him.  (BTW-we should have called 911 or went straight to the ER!  That's hindsight.) 

So, we went to the doctor and she looked at me and said it is definitely not Bell's palsy and you need to go to the hospital.  For the first time it hit's me.  I began to cry.  Mostly because it was serious and we were having to go to the hospital and we do not have insurance.  (Here is where I could tell you a whole lot more about health care and being uninsured but this long post is getting longer so I'll spare you-for know-I will say this GOD DOES MIRACLES)

We leave for the hospital.  Upon arriving my daughter and I are amused at the "Sign's of Stroke" sign that I conveniently had EVERY symptom of so nicely posted at the sign-in desk.  We wait.  Brit takes me to the bathroom, I am already improving a bit.  Then I see in the mirror for the first time with more consciousness what I look like! The horror!  Not my face---what has my husband dressed me in?! No make-up, my hair!  My daughter pulls out what cosmetics she has in her purse and we doctor my face up a bit.  More waiting and then they call me back to triage.  Then someone comes to transport and the triage nurse points and says "she is going to ICU"  and points in my direction and then I, literally, looked over my shoulder to see who they were pointing at and there was no one there-they were pointing at ME!  Me=Intensive Care Unit. What?  It was becoming surreal.  35 years old and going to the ICU. 

I was in the ICU for the day and then that night they admitted me. Kept me for test after test after test. I can tell you the horrors of imagining the bill every time anyone handed me anything or did anything to me.   No one had yet to tell me "You had a stroke".  The doctor (neurologist) actually suspected that since I was so young, and have frequent headaches, that I might have had a seizure.  Then later the next day (early day 3-how crazy is that medical care? sarcasm intended), after my MRI, he returned to correct himself, apologize, admit his surprise and say I had indeed had a stroke.

While in the hospital word spread and visitors and calls ensued.  It was a neat blessing to see who is there when LIFE happens and you need them. I was so grateful for my sister-friends that never leave me or forsake me in the way of Christ whom we share.  It was humbling to be "hospitalized" yet feel so normal. Hard to sit there smiling you are alive; but know that you thought about ending it; but you were alive and loved and cared for.  

I am realizing that I forgot to explain that by the next morning (Day 2) I was pretty much back to normal.  So, I was in the hospital and they were figuring out what was "wrong" with me and I just wanted to go home.  Well, I did in fact have a stroke so they needed to know why.  I was healthy-newly! Thanks to Weight Watchers I had lost 40+ pounds and was exercising.  My blood work was good.  More tests!  Come to discover I had a hole {patent foramen ovale} in my heart.  Go figure! So, I take baby aspirin.  Make sure to walk around every few hours to not get a blood clot.  And get to blame every forgotten mixed up word on "stroke brain". They sent me home Oct. 31. 

As I recovered I admittedly suffered from depression, nothing new for me, but it was different from my regular old depression/anxiety.  I knew that this experience  was "for a purpose" but I was stuck in my pity party.  For a few months I HAD to take a nap (that in itself was depressing-I know you mothers that NEED naps don't agree :)  Mostly, I lived in fear of another stroke. I was living in the present like there was no future. 

Thankfully God had gone before me and prepared me ahead of time for this.  In so many more ways than I have time to mention here.  But I will share with you one of the main events God used to shake up my pity party and I recommend it for others you know that are struggling with their life post-stroke (or otherwise).   See, I used to work with individuals with disabilities before God called me to stay-at- home.  So, much had been prepared in my mind about living with a disability. I had also read a book that was written by a man who had a stroke "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death"   The book was written entirely by him blinking one eye

Well, the book was made into a movie.  Then one day when God had had just about enough of my pity party HE let me see it; and that did it. (I am posting the Trailer at the end of this blog if you want a peek.)

I spent my time, on the couch, watching the movie by myself. Weeping! and weeping!  and got off the couch a new woman! Praise God!

I was meant to live for so much more!  I could still talk, walk, move!  Dance! Shout!  Yes, one day I may have another stroke; so, while I can live, LIVE!  I could also get hit by a bus. For goodness sake live your life while you can!  Whether I do or don't have another stroke is not the point at all.  The point is life has a purpose and you have to live it to figure that out.  As hard as that may seem at times...

Presently, I sit here feeling like I am still stuck. But the HEART of the issue is coming to the surface.

Yesterday, I read this amazing devotion on one of my favorite adoptive momma blogs 

This quote hits me in the HEART:
"Have you ever wanted something so bad that you would do almost anything to get it? Have you ever gotten so close to fulfilling a dream only to have it disappear right before your eyes?"

Well, truly I know that much of my struggling is that I am not living out what I feel that I am created to do.  My husband and I presently don't see eye-to-eye (update*though through a conversation last night we may be more eye-to-eye than I thought :).  It is not something I have talked about much on my blog as it is truly very painful. I desire to be a mother again. and again. and again. For that to happen would require my husbands heart to change and a lot of money.  My focus today is on the HEART and that is the heart of it.  I want to be a  mommy, again. I feel like it will never happen.  Ultimately though, God's will will be done as I follow my husband. Obedience trumps worse case scenario... a theme I have heard a lot this week. ( Here and Here ) Whatever the scenario! amen

As I reflect now I think  "Wow! To see then and now. To have a record of your life "pre" and "post" is pretty interesting. Are the things on my list of little concern to me now?  NO! Still the same worries, fears, struggles, exact same.  Some new things to add in fact!  "What is different then?" you ask.  Everything!  I'M still ALIVE! I am fully functional. I am still a bit stuck but that is going to work itself out as I follow God.   Each year on my stroke-a-versary I will have the opportunity to write about what God has done. It will never again be like the journal entry a year ago.   

Nothing is different and everything is different. I sit here this morning with more hope than I have had in quite some time.  To quote *Tom Davis in Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds:
"Transformation did occur when I would hear the words of Jesus and obey them, no matter how I felt.  The more I obeyed, the more I was transformed. I was becoming a different person because I was living my self into it. I was becoming the words I saw on the page. The words Jesus himself spoke." *page27

That is my hope!  Becoming the words!  Trusting His ways when they aren't my way.  Being present.  And like a piece of the sweet prayer my husband prayed over me this morning : "Let Your voice, Lord, be the only voice she hears!"  It a matter of HEART! and mine is being transformed!

So, do you know what the #1 Killer of Women is?  Heart Disease!

I guess you can look at that very biblically and recognize that we are all heart diseased.  Praise God we have a Father that sent His son so that we can have everlasting life.

Here is some important information about stroke to educate yourself:

Know the RISKSKnow the SIGNS.  Educate Yourself!

Click picture to go to an article 

I was SHOCKED as I was researching things to add to this post for you all that TOMORROW is WORLD STROKE DAY ! Really?  Really, Lord!  The day after my anniversary-world stroke day.   You amaze me Lord~  your timing is perfect! 

Breast checks are important but so is the HEART!

Update 2012
***10/27 which would be the eve of my stroke and significant for me because it's when I wrote my journal entry. 
I am sitting here preparing for the rivalry Florida Georgia Game today. Our family is gathering. My son-in-love is smoking meat and all of my family will be there. Extended in-laws and friends as well. I can't help thinking how RICH my life is. I have a brand new precious grand-daughter.  We are foster parents to a 3 year old blessing. We are second-grandparents to 2 precious joys with another on the way. Our son is growing into a man. Our lives are blessed! I have since had another stroke that did leave me with some health problems that I have battled.  I am fighting the "thorn in my flesh" , of depression with suicidal ideation, with medication and the WORD OF GOD! It has not been an easy journey. It is a journey, though, that I thank God every day that I get to make!

Update 2014 I am sharing this and realizing some more information may be wanted. I have "labels" on the side of the blog if you want to explore topics.  However-shortcut to two important ones.

Here is a post from 2011 that explains HEMIPLEGIC MIGRAINE which I feel is related to my stroke in 2009.

Another post from 2013


Janet (Latte Lady) said...

Wow! What an awesome story of YOU and our GOD! He is awesome!

You are awesome too!


Janet (Latte Lady) said...

You are welcome! We all need a lift up!

In case you couldn't tell from the blog post, I don't like that timeline. If you read the other blog post that I linked to she tells more about the inaccuracies. I'm not a history buff!

Can I ask, what curriculum do you use for your son? Isn't he about my son's age? I always like to get ideas.

Blessings to you!


Deborah Ann said...

I thank God you are alive and well! My sister-in-law had a stroke, and was gone a few hours later. She was so young, and so healthy! I'm guessing you're looking at life through new eyes now, grateful for every minute of the day. The movie looks incredible, I'll have to hunt it down..

Janet (Latte Lady) said...

Yes, a girly girl!! Isn't that funny? I have very short hair, 2 boys, a husband, and a male dog! I say that I have an old soul! I am very old fashioned!


Becky said...

What an amazing journey you have walked over the past year! Thanks for the transparency and honesty. You blessed me today. I am turning 32 shortly and just within the past week confessed to my husband that I have this almost oppressive fear of 32. My childhood best friends mother died from breast cancer and was diagnosed at 32. Another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at 32 and died at 36. For some reason the number 32 is looming large. This was such a good reminder to live today and not worry about tomorrow. Because really? Can we add time to our life? I need to go back and read that passage in Matthew(i think Matthew). I want to enjoy this next year and not live in fear of what I have absolutely no control over.

Thanks again for sharing your heart! You bless me!