When you get to the end of your rope,
tie a knot and hang on.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

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part EIGHTMy right shoulder still did not seem to work easily or well. When I stood looking in a mirror, the shoulder did not sit properly, my arm did not hang in alignment. When both my doctor and the visiting physiotherapist had no answers, my shot-in-the-dark solution was to buy a rowing machine. I had figured out that my shoulder was probably somewhat dislocated, that the months of unslung freedom wherein my arm had hung with no feeling and therefore no discomfort, had probably stretched ligaments to their limit. With a rowing machine, I guessed and hoped, I could not hasten the healing of stretched ligaments, but I could strengthen the muscles involved enough to facilitate the healing. And I wore a sling for a while, which was no inconvenience because the arm offered nothing but aggravation or hilarity anyway.

I was venturing out every day for a walk. Away from flat, obstacle-free floors, I realized my right ankle was wobbly, and not supporting me well. I could control it perfectly if I concentrated on that alone. I needed that total concentraion for other things such as not falling over. So I bought a pair of lovely, high-cut, hard leather Doc Marten's. The top edge of the side of the shoe reduced my ankle to a bloody pulp if I didn't walk with the joint in perfect alignment. I was amazed by how my brain hastened to correct a problem to avoid an injury I could barely feel.

I still used a cane, of course, and set a steady and unshakeable pace, until my lifelong habit of jaywalking showed me that the right incentive (a two-tonne automobile) could indeed persuade my legs to run a few paces. Those few paces kept me from becoming a statistic, but were almost as dangerous as the car itself because of my tendancy to overbalance and fall forward if I moved too quickly. I thought back to the physiotherapist's pile of canes and crutches, and altered my daily route to include an undeveloped, debris-strewn, snow-covered field. I tripped and side-slipped, staggered and fell, but my reaction time lessened and my balance improved.

My knee gave me the most cause to worry. When I was first back on my feet in the hospital, with every step I hyperextended my right knee... bent the joint a bit too far back when my leg was straightened, to lock the joint. Otherwise, it gave way underneath me because I couldn't feel what it was doing, where it was in relation to my foot and torso. Six months later, the knee joint was very loose and unreliable. I talked about it with the visiting physiotherapist; she watched me walk in the living room, and could detect no problem. Indeed, on that flat floor, with me concentrating solely on my knee, there was no problem, which would have been good news had I been content to grow old in the living room.

Again, the rowing machine helped by strengthening my leg in general, allowing the muscles to better help support the knee while stretched ligaments healed.

The visiting physiotherapist was a very pleasant, cheerful, encouraging young woman, but, in fact, contributed very little to the rehab process. Her one comment that I remember clearly was that when the sexy swing was back in my walk, I could consider myself recovered. Almost two years later, it's not back. It's not that I don't want it back; it's just that with, still, virtually no feeling on my right side, that swing would land me on my butt. [In 2008, it's back when I think about it – but it's not very high on my daily list of things to think about.]

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In the months after the stroke, I went out to only two of what could be called social functions. The first was a wedding anniversary celebration for my aunt and uncle by marriage. I danced. Not well; certainly not gracefully. But I was happy that one of Life's meaningless but lovely things was once again possible. Some time later, we attended a retirement celebration for one of my husband's business associates. I was very nervous about that gathering. Although I had improved physically, I was worried I'd fall into a punchbowl or something equally embarassing. I did not. I was worried that trying to remember names, faces, who was married to who, who was divorced and with a new partner, would cause me to overload and shut down. It did not.

We also attended a few hockey games. I thought the noise, the crowd, the fast action would bring on an overload, but they didn't.

All these events confirmed my suspicion that, at that stage of my recovery, overloading/shutting down was more likely to be caused by emotional stress than by intellectual or physical challenges.

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About eight months after I had the stroke, my husband finally did talk to his doctor about me – a doctor who hadn't seen me for years, who hadn't seen my medical history, who didn't know that by then our marriage would probably have registered about 7.8 on the Richter scale. I wasn't surprised to learn he confirmed many of the things I'd been trying to tell my husband for months.

Unfortunately, his words came too late for our marriage. Almost a year after I had the stroke, my husband and I separated. We have since divorced.

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