As I press post tonight, it’s exactly a year since I spent my first night in a neurology ward at Royal North Shore Sydney, nearly 400km from home, attached a drip and wondering if I might experience a massive stroke and possibly die. That is exactly what the medical profession thought might be ‘my story’. The odds were stacked well and truly against me. It is a confronting experience and it does change you forever. And it’s not always a bad thing.
Sorry to bore you but writing about the experience is cathartic – just as it was a year ago in hospital. I leave it behind and move onwards. So thank you for your patience.
So what did I take from this year of recovery?
It taught me about grace, fortitude and courage – right from the moment I heard “You need to understand that this injury has a significant mortality rate”.
Even now I’m surprised at how calm I was. I don’t think my attitude saved me but it kept me calm as I told myself over and over… “this is not how my story ends”. When they wanted to take blood out of the veins in my feet or puncture the femoral artery in my thigh (OK that did terrify me! I silently recited the poetry of Dylan Thomas to distract myself – who knew a drunk Welsh poet could be so calming!), I accepted it needed to happen. Like running any distance, I just had to keep going for it to end.
I’ve learnt to embrace and conquer my anxiety. I’m the type that needs to resolutely go out there and fight my dragons with every weapon in my arsenal. I don’t face my dragons, I destroy them and then dance on their grave. If there was a mythical creature I have an affinity with, it is the phoenix – the creature that rises from the ashes of destruction. And while I’m not majestic like the fiery winged beast, I’ve often imagined myself rising above the injury, anxiety and leaving it behind.
I’ve learnt to refuse to be defined by my injury, to ignore the demons that continually ask ‘what if’, to live in the moment, to write my own rules, to reject the drama of others, to turn away from negativity, to embrace joy. I celebrate what I can do rather than mourn the things I lost.
I enjoy my running – and have run three half marathon events, my first trail run and most recently the infamous Sydney City 2 Surf in Sydney this year. I’ve clocked over 820kms in 2018 and am back to my former pace and that’s enough for me. I’ll never run a marathon. I’ve got the personality to – just perhaps not the carotid artery anymore. I’ve proved enough to myself and I’m happy. I run beyond medical advice but so far, I’m listening to my body and it’s working for me.
I hate the fear/worry my family lived, and probably live, with. I’ve accepted I can’t always be a pillar of strength – or do everything for everyone and I no longer want to. I’ve always been an exceptionally independent human being however I learnt that I am not an island. I need a village. I’m still highly selective about my village 😊 as I can no longer bear drama, nastiness, pettiness or unkindness.
I’d love to tell you that it’s all been plain sailing but there’s been sadness and tears – however, surprisingly, very little anger. Bad things happen that you can’t control or change and that’s life – I see anger as being counterproductive to moving on and becoming stronger. I don’t think life is always about forgiveness, it can sometimes be about acceptance.
l will have another brain/neck MRI in November… perhaps nothing has changed… or perhaps miraculously my artery has repaired itself and life resumes without the worries and restrictions. Realistically, I think that is not my future – I can’t believe the damage will ‘disappear’ – life isn’t always the fairytale you want it to be. I think my injury will always haunt me in some way. Who knows.
I’m still here against the all the odds that were stacked against me 365 days ago.
Whatever I’m made of, it’s tougher than any hockey ball.
It’s been a simple decision to live every day. You could die any old unremarkable day… but you can choose to live every day. I choose to live.
Now I’m off to finally finish that blog post about the Tessuti Monroe and Papercut Patterns Fall Turtlenecks.
… and I’ve been sewing more dancewear – sorry, not sorry.