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"Exit, pursued by a bear"
Stage Direction from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale
19.1 …still got some sand in my shoes…
It is now slightly past the third anniversary of my stroke. The last year has been a time of almost constant pain. In one of my final physio sessions with Sarah a whole age ago it seems, after saying she thought a lot of my abilities would return she asked if I had any pain. There was some discomfort then, but not what I would call pain. The old brain was probably just not getting the "ouch that hurts" messages being sent back from down my left side. It certainly does now that something like full feeling has returned.. Worst affected is my left cheek (facial - the lower cheek is like a connonball) which gets so bad at times I can hardly think because of it. Most of the left side muscles having become inflexible and shortened themselves are stretched tight so I assume it is they that should be hurting but the chemical messages are somehow being misdirected at a busy junction. Also the constantly changing feedback from the hip and leg as things restore themselves little by little means that I have to learn to walk on different leg sensations every few weeks. Having come so far though I am not going to give up while there is a milligram of improvement to be squeezed out of this old body.
Despite the discomfort, the process has been fascinating to live through. When shortening the walking stick first caused my left hip to start working there was about three months of feeling very intense sensation in the joint. When this settled, the pain started to move down my leg leading eventually to my spending a month with my foot on fire. I anticipated one hip to toe pain sequence for recovery followed by a period of strectching and building wasted muscles. WRONG. To date there have been four stages as the ability to make complex movements and some delicacy of control have returned. Worst so far has been the third stage in my knee, which at the moment feels as if a lot of small, sharp objects have been implanted under the kneecap having just regained the ability to extend on the forward step without being driven by conscious thought.
Numerous milestones have helped me keep going. Walking round a small supermarket was a major result, even though I did not walk anywhere outside the house for four days afterwards.
Recovery is not a competition, it is a solo challenge. Landmarks are important, for example in my case, taking the first steps, for a fellow patient, speaking his first intelligible sentence. These things rightly make us feel good and we should be proud of them. Setting goals and targets is fine so long as we do not become obsessed. Sometimes the biggest triumphs take us by surprise.
There is one story I must share with you before the end.
Holidaying last year, on the Costa Del Sol the achievement of something very very ordinary to an able bodied person meant the world to me. In the warm dry climate of Southern Spain everything seemed to ease a little and movements were less difficult. Although late in the year the weather was sunny enough for us to hire sunbeds on the beach and spend hours lounging, watching the sea. I have always loved the sea. There were wooden walkways from the promenade across the sand to stop people burning their feet in high summer and one day as Teri wheeled me towards one of these that led to the lounger rental man’s office/coolbox I asked her to stop, abandoned the wheelchair and walked down to the sea. The wooden decking stopped about ten metres from the water’s edge but there was no turning back. That short distance was wobbly and difficult and took forever on the soft sand but it had looked at one stage very much as if I would never feel ripples lapping over my toes again. It was another delight I had won back from fate. Such experiences are what bring home the real joy and thrill of recovering and make everything we go through seem worthwhile.
19.2 "....because it too so long to bake it...."
I hope to have given you some encouragement and described things you may identify with if you are travelling or are about to embark upon the same route I have chosen. We are all different people so your experience will differ in many ways but there will be broad similarities. There will be a lot of pain and frustration on the way but if you are prepared to keep going, never abandon hope, always hold on to your sense of humour and do not fall victim to resentment it will pay off. I can’t promise a full recovery, for me there is still a long way to go and the improvement may end tomorrow. My achievement though has been to reclaim my life. So long as you keep an open mind, believe in yourself, find ways of making life worthwhile and are willing to compromise I’m sure you will achieve that in your own way too. Do not believe anybody who tells you , as I and many others have been told that after about six months improvements, if any, will be very slight. Among the any group of stroke survivors are many people who will testify that they are still improving up to ten years and more after their mishap. Six months my arse. Keep trying, never give up.
The real last chapter of this story cannot be written yet, I’m still living it.
There will be a happy ending though, I promise.
This book was first published as a free e-book on the internet. Over ten thousand downloads were made but the author has since his initiative been constantly disappointed by lack of support from charities and stroke support groups. The book has therefore been put into print so that it may be promoted more thoroughly. Despite that Ian is determined
to keep a version available as a free download. For more information check
As for the author's recovery, after completing this text he hit a wall and progress was marginal until a further course of specialised physiotherapy rectified the problems by reactivating some deep tissue muscles in his shoulder and back. This has improved mobility again although Ian finds he tires very easily and the left side muscles are prone to damage. Thus what would be a stroll in the park to most people is like running a marathon and forces several days rest. Despite that he assures us his quality of life is good and having made something of a reputation as a writer and poet he looks forward to turning that into an income stream. Watch out for novels, stories and multi - media entertainments from him in the future
These are the titles of the songs from which I have quoted in paragraph headings.
As I said, a little memory game - no prizes, just fun but if you think I have given any wrong answers e - mail me, ianrthorpe.yahoo.com, I will be interested to know.
1. Teacher is teaching the golden rule - Schooldays; Chuck Berry
2. No more ace to play – Winner takes it all; ABBA
3. It’s the end of my world – The End of the World; Skeeter Davis
4. Doctor is there nothing I can take – Coconut; Nilsson
1. its life Jim but not as we know it – Star Trekkin’; The Firm
2. food glorious food – from the musical Oliver; Lionel Bart
3. it had to be me, unlucky me – It had to be you; Yip Harburg
4. got a whole lotta money that’s ready to burn - Viva Las Vegas; Elvis Presley
1. Through the holes in your string vest - Canyons of Your Mind - The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
2. Everybody was Kung Fu fighting - Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas
3. Hey you, get off my cloud – Get Off My Cloud; The Rolling Stones
4. and I think I’m going out of my head – Out of my head; Little Anthony and the Imperials
1. pick me up baby and put me back - Back on my feet again ;Four Tops
2. you’re my best friend – song title by Queen
3. you need hands to hold the one you care for - You need hands; Max Bygraves
4. there ought to be clowns…. Send in the clowns from "A litte night music"
5. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haa – The laughing policeman
6. is this the real life, is this just fantasy….Bohemian Rhapsody; Queen
7. loveliest of all was the unicorn…um, I don’t know, I loved this one when I was quite small. (If anyone dares say "you’re still quite small Ian," I’ll....!)
1. even when the darkest clouds are in the sky - Spread a little happiness; written by Vivian Ellis
2. you mustn’t sigh and you must not cry….same as above
3. it must be an angel - Title of a Eurythmics hit
1. eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends - Dedicated Follower of Fashion;The Kinks
2 take my hand, I’m a stranger in paradise.... Another childhood memory, my Dad used to sing it.
3 here comes the mirror man - Mirror man – The Human League
4. the girl can’t help it… Title song from a film starring Jayne Mansfield
5. round like a circle in a spiral - Windmills of my mind by Noel Harrison (from the film The Thomas Crown affair)
6. A slice of good cheese, a young girl on my knee – Cider For Me, Adge Cutler and the Wurzels
7. I’ll be writing more in a week or two… Paperback writer – The Beatles
8. I get no kick from champagne – I get a kick out of you, (various people)
1. it’s a hard life… - Song Title, Queen
2 pick me up baby and put me back… Back on my feet again – it was the Four Tops or The Foundations, I was never a big Motown Fan
3. its a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world – Lola, by The Kinks
4. when, when you smile - I think this was The Beverley Sisters
5. I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail… - El Condor Pasa, Simon & Garfunkel
6. I’m on your side when times get rough – Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel
7. the fire in your eye is out…. – Wonderwall, Oasis
1 ….he’s got high, apple pie, in the sky hopes…. High Hopes; Frank Sinatra
2 …for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows… I Believe; Robson & Jerome or Conway Twitty and millions of others
3 ....did you write the book of love – American Pie; Don McLean or Madonna
1 …be it ever so humble…There’s no place like home. (I’ve no idea)
2 ....jailer bring me water – American folk song
3 ....just my honey and me, the baby makes three - My Blue Heaven, many artists
4 ….a four legged friend, – Roy Rogers (and those really irritating early music on hold systems)
10.1 ...do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there? – Are you lonesome tonight, Elvis Presley
10.2 ....ever so naughty, Sooty – The Sooty Song
10.3 ....it’s a man’s world – James Brown
10.4 ....staccato signals of constant information… The Boy in the Bubble, Paul Simon
10.5 …if I were a carpenter… Paul Anka and others
10.6 .... and the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made – Sound of Silence; Simon & Garfunkel
10.7 ….Jambalay, crawfish pie, file gumbo – Jambalaya, Fats Domino & many others
11.1 ....there are only three steps to heaven....Three Steps to Heaven, Eddie Cochran
11.2 …pick yourself up, dust yourself off – Start all over again; Just about everybody I think.
11.3 …’cos you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind – Suzanne, Leonard Cohen
11.4 …tea for two… Title, probably Edmundo Ross orchestra but I could be wrong
11.5 … some machine is doing it for you… - In the year 2525, Zager & Evans
12.1 …if I only had a brain… from the film The Wizard of Oz
12.2 …sun shone softly through my window today – Sunshine Superman, Donovan
12.3 ....feed me, feed me… - from the film Little Shop of Horrors
13.1 ....under pressure, bearing down on me – Under Pressure, David Bowie & Queen
13.2 …and I say to myself…. Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
13.3 …heffalumps and woozles… - from the film Winnie the Pooh
13.4 …they are waiting for me when I feel that I just can’t go on – The Sisters of Mercy, Leonard Cohen
13.5 …This old heart of mine – Title by the Isley Brothers
13.6 ....got my eyes, got my nose… I Got Life, Nina Simone
13.7 …and the bells were ringing out… Fairytale of New York, The Pogues & Kirsty McColl
14.1 Merry Christmas Everybody - Slade (I thought this was a very appropriate line in the circumstances)
14.2 ....tell me what you want, what you really, really want.... Wannabee – The Spice Girls
14.3 ....I’m coming home, i’ve done my time… Tie a Yellow Ruibbon, Tony Orlando & Dawn
15.1 …and all the roads that lead you there… Wonderwall (again), Oasis
15.2 Riding along on a pushbike honey -The Pushbike Song, I can’t remember who did it, they were one hit wonders
15.3 …....a little bit of Monica in my life… Mambo No 5 by Lou Bega
16.1 ....angel of the centrefold - (Title) by J Gilles Band
16.2 ….... Slippin' and a slidin', all along the waterfall.... Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
16.3 ....for he’s got no falorum fol - diddle - i - orum - English folk song
16.4 ....and take it to the limit one more time.... Take it to the limit, The Eagles
17.1 ....we had joy, we had fun.... Seasons in the Sun written by Jaques Brel
17.2 ...hit me with your rhythm stick.... Ian Dury & the Blockheads
18.1 ....it ain’t what you do… Title by Funboy Three & Others
18.2 ....he’s a real nowhere man.... Nowhere Man, The Beatles
18.3 …down by the sea… - Under the Broadwalk, The Drifters
18.4 ....because it too so long to bake it... McArthur Park written by Jimmy Webb