evidence of symptoms


A friend of mine, also suffering from a brain injury with fantastically similar symptoms to those of my stroke, shared some of her tendencies with me. “I buy the same books over and over!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms up in frustration.

I bought two copies of About Alice by Calvin Trillin last week. I’d had no idea I did that–I didn’t remember buying the previous copy weeks ago. I simply brought home the more current copy and proceeded to read it. After a few days of diligent reading, I closed the book, very satisfied by its short but meaningful experience. I’d even bookmarked pages with meaningful quotes. And I was pleased to add it to my booklist. Number TWO! It was the first book I’d FINISHED since my stroke. Yes, it’s a short book, but it COUNTS.

A couple days went by–and I went looking for the book again, with the intention of looking up the quotes and writing them down. I found a copy and mysteriously, it had NO bookmarks at all on it. Furthermore, it was an autographed copy. What? Had I entered a new dimension? Then it dawned on me. “Sheeeit! I bought TWO copies! Damnit!” My short term memory deficit was rearing its head again.

I was both tickled and stunned by my discovery.

It took me awhile to find the other copy, but there it was, on the coffee table in the den, just as I had left it (at which point I remembered, “Oh yah. That’s where I put it last.”)

Here are the quotes:

This was a dozen years after Alice had been operated on for lung cancer,and among the things she wrote to our friend’s daughter was that having lung cancer and being raped were comparable only in that both were what she called “realizations of our worst nightmares.” She said that there was some relief at surviving what you might have thought was not survivable. “No one would ever choose to have cancer or be raped,” she wrote. “But you don’t get to choose, and it is possible at least to understand what Ernest Becker meant when he said something like ‘To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything,’ or to begin to understand the line in ‘King Lear’–‘Ripeness is all.’ You might have chosen to become ripe less dramaticaly or dangerously but you still can savor ripeness.”

And on p. 72:

Alice loved Bruno’s letter. For her, of course, the measure of how you held up in the face of a life-threatening illness was not how much you changed but how much you stayed the same, in control of your own identity.

I wish I could have met Alice. She was a survivor whose experience with cancer gave her a depth of understanding and compassion that Trillin truly touches on.

These days, I’m looking to role models as well as so many other guiding posts. I don’t want to be the kind of sick person who only talks about HERSELF and can’t help others (yes, this despite the blog where I uh, only talk about myself really). So I have a heightened sense of how much I talk about myself to people–I try to limit talk about my stroke (though it’s inevitable that we touch upon the subject).

Now I am looking forward to future behavior–what kind of person do I want to be? What will I do with these lessons?

I may have another stroke again. I am lucky–I had a TIA (a milder version of stroke) a few years back, and who knew that there would be a bigger, longer lasting recurrence, in the form of a stroke? Really, I shrugged off the possibility years ago, “Nah, I won’t have another one. This one was a fluke!” In a few weeks, I will be going in for surgery to close the hole in my heart that may have led to the stroke.

Life is unpredictable.



Filed under Life, Reading, The Stroke

7 responses to “evidence of symptoms

  1. Lamberakis

    My grandmother died of stroke when she was only 58. My aunt (her daughter) had a mild stroke in her 50s that left her with Bell’s palsy. I worry about my own hereditary chances in this. Life is unpredictable, all right. But I’m sure your surgery will go well.

    Your blog is really a pleasure to read.

  2. Lamberakis —
    I wish you well on your journey (life is unpredictable, so you might live until 100 with no health problems! let’s hope for that)–and thank you for the compliment!

  3. this is such a beautiful and thoughtful post, and I love the quotes from Trillin.

  4. I suggest a support a group Jade….one where you can receive and also provide support from others who are going through this process. You might be surprised by what you find.

    I find myself conflicted here because I hope you will continue to write about yourself but I also know you need to do what is best for you. I have not read one entry by anyone indicating they do not want to know about you, how your recovery is coming along or about the upcoming operation. To a much smaller degree, we are living it with you and want to provide what little support we can.

    I am thinking back to when I first came in contact with your blog and why I continue to come here. Several things come to mind. 1) You are an aspiring writer with energy and creativity – that was an attraction because I had often thought over the years about writing and took journalism college classes – even declared it a major at one time; 2) Korean heritage – while in the US Navy, I had been to South Korea many times and wish I had learned more than I did. A fascinating people.

    Now, I am learning from you about what it is like to recover from a stroke and soon-to-have heart surgery. I didn’t expect that when I first came but I can honestly say I am glad I stayed. The best connections may not be the ones we lose, but those we keep.

  5. I’ve never had surgery or any kind of operation (it’s actually one of my biggest fears) so my stomach dropped when I read that you would be having one. I’ll be sending positive thoughts into the cosmos for you! And I love the quote you have above: You might have chosen to become ripe less dramatically or dangerously but you still can savor ripeness.”

    It leaves a wonderful taste in my mouth.

  6. weirdness: I did end up having another TIA before the surgery.

  7. Hello Friend,
    Thank you for sharing what is going on with you. Life is a process, not a destination. That is some thing that I continue to realize. More is yet to be revealed. My name is Craig and I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. My tbi occurred some 41 years ago and for many years I felt like some one all dressed up with no where to go — had a hard time knowing how to use what I had been given. On February 6, 2007 I created Second Chance to Live — at the encouragement of a friend — where I share from my experience, strength and hope. In a nutshell, below is what I believe. You may find some renewed hope through visiting my web log and reading through articles that are found with in my site map: http://secondchancetolive.wordpress.com/site-map/. My interest is to provide encouragement, motivation and empowerment to live life on life’s terms, not to promote Second Chance to Live my friend.

    Please let me know if I can be of service to you or to your readers. Thank you for your time and kindness.

    Have a pleasant rest of your day my friend !


    I am a traumatic brain injury survivor and I have found that what happens to me is not as important as what I do with what has been given to me. I believe who I am is not defined by my traumatic brain injury, my disability, deficits or limitations. I believe that my experiences are lessons that prepares me to take advantage of life empowering opportunities. These opportunities — in conjunction with the lessons that I learn that point me in the direction of my destiny. I believe that my circumstances are not meant to keep me down, but they are meant to build me up. I believe that I can trust the process, a loving God — the God of my understanding — my ability to learn, and myself.

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