It looks as though I may soon be able to ditch a very important piece of equipment that I have grown very dependent on over the last 4 and a half years.
In the last four years since my stroke, I have not used my wheelchair since 3, maybe 6 months after I gave birth to JJ (I was 13 weeks pregnant when I had the stroke). I have dropped various small tools and pieces of equipment from my grouping of necessary paraphernalia. I’m now down to my shower transfer bench, grabbers (to reach the shower curtain because I’m lazy), AFO, and cane. I still use my shower bench because I cannot bend my knee or lift with my hip high enough to clear the side of the tub and remain standing once I get in. I also tend to lose my balance a lot, like most stroke survivors do, even when I’m not moving. I stand in the shower now when I wash my hair which is so nice. The first time I stood to wash my hair since my stroke was one of the best goals met in my recovery. It’s very strange the things you find worthy of celebrating during your recovery. Jeez, the first time I shaved my own armpits was grounds for celebration!
I didn’t realize how much I missed the feel of water reaching the underside of my hair! I have a detachable shower head so I would just sit in an incredibly boring manner rinsing, put down shower head to run a hand through my hair to mix it up a bit, rinse again and repeat and repeat, hoping it was enough to get the shampoo away from my scalp. I’d go through itchy days because I wasn’t thorough or patient enough and I’d notice some flaking days later. I’ve been dandruff free for over three months now!
I just finished my 18 weeks of physical therapy for the year a couple of weeks ago. Like always, it was disappointing to walk out of that place slightly hunched and leaning on my damn cane with the same AFO I’ve had for over 4 years now. I can’t even get a new AFO. How does everyone else do it? I have no idea! I’m blocked from Facebook’s stroke survivor groups because everyone is too sensitive or they’re ran by that same effing annoying woman who tried to say I was ugly because she couldn’t defend her bitchy attitude. Ugh…apparently that’s still a touchy subject for me.
I met my therapy cap and felt the only goal I met was confidence walking outside a little without my cane. But this is so incredibly huge that I barely even noticed. Once a week, for 12 visits, I went to therapy and each day Beanz would take me outside to walk around the building. It’s a good-sized building. The first day I was so nervous because there were corners which meant that at some point, I was going to get hit with wind (my city is super windy). I lose my balance with the slightest breeze and I do this wobble that makes me panic, gasp and sweat that really funky, adrenaline-filled sweat. I don’t like it. The building is along a fairly busy road though it’s not a main vein for transport. The traffic is consistent but not constant though this is just enough to affect my anxiety and increase tone in my left side. I’m thinking of this one path in particular where we’d turn right and there’s about 4 stairs followed by a left on to a narrow sidewalk where there’s usually a strong breeze and untrimmed greenery that bop you on the head. You take another left and you see the road going from your right to left but they probably can’t see you. You take another left and the sidewalk becomes even more narrow, the greenery thicker, more overgrown and the people at the light can sit and stare at you with your high and tight gait belt on. The first time around the building I got my hand stuck in this bush, I was so nervous and anxious about these people staring at me and the narrow sidewalk barely enough for my stiff leg with its swing widened because of the extra tone, that my arm was way out there feeling around for safety on its own accord. And then I see stairs. They aren’t regular stairs but the kind that are tiled and have nothing for your shoes to grip. After an immense struggle with my anxiety and need to cry instead of climbing these puny stairs, we go up, right, up a tiny step even I barely noticed, through a brief breeze-way with no breeze (thankfully) and back indoors where I would continue therapy. By my last visit, I was comfortable enough on this path that my arm wouldn’t even stick out on its own anymore.
Since I finished therapy with a disappointed scowl, I have not used my cane. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED. I told my last therapist that I didn’t care what it took (this is before I learned that Medicare has a cap for rehabilitative services) or what other goals I didn’t meet, I just wanted to drop my cane and never worry about picking it up again. And here I was, after finishing a “stint” in this new place, complaining about what they didn’t do so much that I didn’t notice what they did do! I’m beside myself! I’ve always said, once I came to understand what having a stroke really meant for me, that I didn’t care if my arm didn’t work again or if I always had to wear a brace as long as I eventually ditched the stick. It’s burdensome, embarrassing and I think it makes me clumsy. I’m so worried about where its foot is going that I can’t look up to see where I’m going. It’s difficult to carry my purse with comfort while I’m using a cane because my arm is resting on it and causing me to walk with a wider circumference than is necessary.
I went back-to-school shopping during tax-free weekend. This should have shaken me to the core. I should have been sick at home with a migraine caused by the tension in my neck. But I wasn’t. I was out there, with people, and I was not melting down. We did choose stores we knew wouldn’t be crowded because of my anxiety but the point is, I did it! And without my cane! And I haven’t used my cane to go grocery shopping, out to eat, or to JJ’s therapy. Today, while shoe shopping for Skas, I held his hand to cross the parking lot because it was not holding my cane. I felt like a mom again even though my limp made for an awkward journey with him. I’ll adjust the limp as I go, as I gain even more confidence out there with just my brace. I’ll learn what I’m most comfortable with in time. It amazes me what that bit of walking one day a week for 3 months has done without me noticing. For once, I don’t feel I have a forced sense of positivity in my thinking.
I become so lost in the negatives I am too blinded to see the positives. I can only continue with what I’m doing and move forward hoping this is a great sign of what’s in my future.