Tag Archives: Life is Good

Two Decades

This past Sunday was a momentous anniversary for me- the 20th year anniversary of my first stroke. TWO DECADES!! It’s wild.

While it was heavy on my mind, I didn’t focus on my personal situation on Sunday since it was my son’s First Communion. I couldn’t think of a better celebration/distraction than his special day. And it was lovely- a beautiful day of faith, hope, grace and love. And in that way, as I look back, this dreaded day twenty years ago was also filled with faith, hope, grace and love.

My son on his First Communion Day

I still think about May 7, 1997 with a myriad of emotions… sadness, regret, unrealized dreams, and lost opportunities but also gratefulness, appreciation for life, deep emotional connections and continuous hope.

I have been mentally dwelling on this anniversary for the past few months. Mostly because I wanted to have a book written by this date…but that was just an arbitrary date set…and I am happy to report that I am working on a book, so hope it comes to fruition soon. (Add inspiring author onto my resume!)

I look back at that day the week before college graduation when I heard the words, “You’ve had a stroke.” I see my frazzled Mom arriving in my Washington, DC hospital room after an emergency rushed flight from Rhode Island. I remember all the friends who stopped by the hospital to bid me well even as they were on their way to our Booze Cruise Senior Week celebration, which I was supposed to be attending. I recall walking into the tan, sterile Emergency Room alone and noticing the sign listing the stroke symptoms- and realizing that I had all of them. I remember the friends who dropped me at the hospital and sat with me through the procedures and terrifying news. Mostly, I recall the fear of a stroke diagnosis, the throbbing pain of my headache and numbness of my left side, and the awful spinal tap (performed by a student doctor who had never done one before and missed my spine three times!) which diagnosed my stroke.

Lisa’s college graduation.

I also embarrassingly remember how naïve and optimistic I was about my life before that day and still struggle with that sense of loss. Until that point in my life, I had always worked hard to be an overachiever. I always gave it my all in sports, studied hard and received almost straight A’s in school and worked throughout school to be financially sound. I even worked really hard at having fun in college. I didn’t have a passion or purpose but know I was set up for success. I was ready to jump into the business world and give it my all. I literally had a start date ready at Andersen Consulting. I even had a tentative life plan…work a little while at Andersen Consulting (hopefully traveling to see the country) and then go get my MBA. I had California in my mind for that. I assumed I would get married one day and have a family. I never planned to be a stay-at-home Mom but I would be a good Mom. I just had this plan that I was ready to tackle life and have fun.

I didn’t even know it at the time but those dreams went out the window on May 7, 1997 with my stroke diagnosis. I mourn this loss- still to this day. I do a lot of wondering what could have been, should have been or might have been. However, I am older and wiser so I know that life happens while you’re busy planning. God had a different plan for me and despite kicking and screaming against it, I am living His wonderful, perfect plan.

Our family today.

I have learned that I am exactly where I am supposed to me. My life is just what it is supposed to be. I am married to an amazing husband and have two kids who literally make my heart burst (with joy most of the time…;) I don’t have a career but I have a fulfilling, passion filled life that I have created despite my limitations. My life of advocacy and volunteerism has more meaning than I could ever have dreamed of. I am here for my children; I help other survivors and patients; my story inspires others facing adversity; and I most importantly, I am here.

Twenty years ago I never would have believed you if you told me that I would go on to have four strokes, two brain surgeries, two rare disease diagnosis, chemo, menopause, trouble speaking, occupational therapy and many TIAs …but also a wonderful, loving family of my own, a safe nice home and fun beach house with my parents, a “job” where I get to speak to hundreds of people, a blog, a non-profit organization, life experiences through travel and the best friends and family I can ask for.

I don’t say this all to brag, but to remind myself that life is good. I mourn the loss I experienced twenty years ago yet appreciate the ride that life has given me. It hasn’t gone as planned but with acceptance and patience, I am living God’s will and cautiously celebrating twenty years of overcoming!

 

Meet my #HeroOfOptimism

My husband is my #HeroOfOptimism for his unwavering support and calmness during the most tumultuous year of my life.

IMG_1439While perusing Twitter and FaceBook last week, I noticed a #LifeIsGood post asking people to share their Heroes of Optimism.  I immediately thought of my calm and positive husband, Brian.  He isn’t a fan of personal publicity but I would like to share this with my friends and family.

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Just over a year ago, as a 39-year-old mother of two, I suffered a fourth stroke. I had suffered three strokes in my early twenties and underwent debilitating treatment. Fortunately, I had been living a somewhat normal life for fourteen years when my fourth stroke occurred. After my last stroke, I was shocked to be diagnosed with a new rare brain disease, Moyamoya disease. There is no cure for Moyamoya but treatment is brain surgery I soon learned that I would need not just one but two brain surgeries. With the help of my husband, we made the courageous decision to travel across the country to a premier neurosurgeon for bilateral brain bypass surgeries.

With two children under ten, Brian was dedicated to maintaining a normal routine and life for them. Brian balanced his stressful career and being a full-time caretaker to me while keeping life consistent and positive for our kids. On top of being his usual involved father, Brian seamlessly took on the role of husband, mom, employee, boss, public relations consultant, advocate, confidant, counselor and family CEO. I was facing the battle of my life and had much anxiety and fear going into two brain surgeries. Brian remained calm and reassuring at all times- to me and the children. He selflessly devoted himself to my well-being, care and comfort before, during and after my 8 and 10 hour surgeries (one week apart.) He supported me when I had speech issues, making me signs to carry in case I needed to communicate. He held me when I needed assistance walking. He bathed me, managed my medications and pain and (literally and figuratively) did all the heavy lifting and caring for me and the children.

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Brian remained positive and confident in me and my course of treatment the entire time. He let me discuss my fears but always provided positive thoughts and optimism. He hugged me, held my hand and reminded me always that I would overcome these challenges. Brian, with the help of family and friends, created #teamlisa. Through my three weeks away, Brian religiously updated #teamlisa via social media. Not only was he my light of optimism and positivity, Brian provided that information and security to my family and friends around the country.

Team Lisa

Brian wasn’t in my life during my early health challenges, but I’m so thankful he was here for me during this latest, scariest one. I was able to stay positive and overcame a stroke and two brain surgeries thanks to my husband, Brian. He is my #HeroOfOptimism.