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A Survivor


Dear friends,

I recently shared with you that I am moving back to Grand Rapids, MI. Much of my family lives there, including the three sisters that formed my recovery team after my first stroke in 2008. One sister is a nurse, one is a speech therapist and one is a teacher. Their areas of specialization were very important in my recovery. They were tough but tender with their brother, and after these seizures I really need their help again.

What I share in this letter I hope will provide encouragement for other survivors and caregivers. As survivors we all have a bank of “medical medals” on our chests, so I won’t share how and when I got all of mine. That isn’t my point. WE have all been wounded in a medical ambush that came on unannounced.

As Kenny Rogers used to sing “you got to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them”. For many of us, we didn’t have that kind of choice when our stroke occurred. It just happened, without warning, unannounced, and life hasn’t been the same since. WE have had to “hold em” by default, with the challenges of a stroke our “new normal”. The does not mean that life hasn’t been rich and fulfilling- in fact, to the contrary. 

I was previously a VP with Morgan Stanley. I attended meetings in the Morgan Stanley corporate offices many times, located in the World Trade Center. I even still have my ID that allowed me access, as a reminder of how quickly things can change. But I don’t need that as a reminder any more. I just look in the mirror and see the surgical scars now.

Just like the surprise of 9-11 and how things have changed as a result of that day, the change in my life has been remarkable. Whether it has been remarkably good or remarkably bad, remarkably happy or remarkably sad depends on one’s perspective.

When I flew into NY or Chicago or LA for meetings I was picked up by a sleek black limousine with a driver. Now I ride what I refer to as the “short bus”. But my inclination is to honestly say I like “life” better now than I did in the limo days. Life today is more authentic and genuine and that’s because of who I interact with now and how they have helped me use my eyes. And you all are a part of that group of people.

Instead of focusing on the next promotion or the next deal, I use my eyes to see who and what is around me. Instead of looking at the line of people ahead of me that I might have aspired to be, I now look behind me at the longer line of people who daily face challenges together than anything I have endured.

It is all about perspective; changed perspective. And this group has taught me many things both by your words and your actions. The overarching umbrella under which we live our lives each day is faith. Faith in God in which we live our lives each day is faith. Faith in god in which we pray at the conclusion of our Tuesday meetings, faith in his provision (providing for our needs, not necessarily our wants), faith in our future (I would likely never have met you were that for us not having a stroke…maybe a few of you at a seniors rock concert somewhere down the line), faith in our fellow man (doctors, nurses, specialists that saved our lives and nurtured us back to health) and faith and love for our neighbor and for the person we sit next to at these meetings.

Is the glass half empty or half full? You have all demonstrated to me that your glass of life is half full, and many times overflowing. For sharing that perspective consistently each Tuesday, I thank you and wish you God’s continued blessing and provisions in each of your lives. 


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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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