at home


It’s still snowing here.


Snow is one of those things about which Jesus definitely is Not Sure.

Just check out his plum tree. . .

The wee man is spending the day inside, but me and Bruce have been out with the camera. I love the transformative effects of snow, even on the greyest winter day.



It was very quiet out there.

Though Bruce tried his best to make a ruckus.

Spare a thought for poor Tom, though, who set off for Liverpool this morning and is currently stuck on a stationary train somewhere in deepest Cumbria. Familiar Words of Doom have been uttered: “Replacement Bus Service.” If he ever gets there, Tom will be spending a few days at a conference. This will be interesting for both of us, as we’ve not been apart since I came out of hospital. It feels significant. Tom is really quite amazing: as well as working extremely hard in the World of Spleens all day, he then comes home and performs far more than his fair share of household tasks so that I can save my energy for my rehab. I know I couldn’t have managed the past ten months without him, and he is top of the list of the many things I feel extremely lucky for. But it seems a good time for me to try a few days of total independence. I am doing quite well at the moment. I mean, I feel a little peculiar all of the time, but lately the little peculiar that I feel has been slightly less. My norm seems more normal, in other words. I have found myself wondering two things: 1)whether this constant-vague-peculiarity is really subsiding or my brain is just getting used to it and 2) whether people realise how generally weird things are for those who have had a stroke. (I know that brain-injury sufferers who have linguistic difficulties carry around explanatory cards to be whipped out in difficult public situations, and there have been several occasions over the past few months when I have wished I was wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “HELLO! I’VE HAD A STROKE.”)

Physically, I am definitely still getting better, though the improvements are slow and incremental and sometimes hard for me to see. In fact, other people seem to notice these improvements more than I do. On Saturday, for example, we ran into a physio friend of ours who regarded my walking as something quite incredible (which I suppose it is, considering that the part of my brain that was most damaged was the bit controlling my leg and foot, and that some of my medical team thought it was unlikely that I’d ever be able to walk without a stick, brace, and one of those electronic thingummies). Recently, when I’ve been out with Bruce, I have even tried running a few steps. This is really very difficult – there is nothing my left leg likes less than moving at speed – but over the past few weeks I have progressed from five lopsided steps to twenty five. It feels quite exhilarating.

While I am on the subject, and as much for my benefit as anything else, I want to record an experience of a couple of weeks ago, after which my gait seemed to noticeably improve. Mostly, on my daily walks, I just pootle along as best I can, but there is a nice flat stretch of about half a mile where I try to make every single component of my gait correct – this takes more effort than you would imagine, and Bruce often becomes frustrated with what he must regard as pointless dawdling when ahead lie innumerable sticks and squirrels. Anyway, I was covering this gait-focused half-mile a couple of weeks ago, and found that I was walking really well – the knee seemed to be working without locking (a recurrent issue), and my steps were smooth and even. This continued for about half a minute, and then I suddenly had a terrible attack of vertigo and nausea – I had to hold onto a tree while I waited for it to subside – and then took Bruce the shortest way home. There then followed the particularly evil bout of fatigue (mentioned in this post), but a few days afterward I found myself capable of walking six-and-a-half miles from our flat to the Modern Art Gallery and back. I have wondered since whether, at that moment, my brain finally made some sort of useful connection, and that this somehow caused the crazy nausea. In any case, since then, my leg has certainly had more strength and stamina and my knee has been acting more reliably.

Anyway, I seem to have rambled far away from the ostensible subject of this post – which was supposed to be the novel experience of doing my own washing up and cooking for a few days. On the subject of which, I better go and put my supper on. . .

56 responses

  1. Good for you! The brain is an amazing and frustrating part of our body. As I’m sure you know, the nausea producing part of your brain is in one of the most primal parts and is involved with dopamine and CNS functions, so your summation may very well be correct.
    I’ve often admired Tom’s care and thought how lucky you are. He’s lucky too, to have such a determined woman to live with.

    Take care,
    Loretta

  2. Kate, as one who has been following your progress all year, to my non-medical eye you seem to have made astounding progress. As for Tom …. I’m sending him a big, virtual hug for being so good to you. And I hope he escapes the train soon.

  3. Ah yes. Rail replacement bus service – four of the most dreaded words in the English language (along with “unrecognised item in the bagging area”). I do hope Tom escapes from his train soon and makes it to Liverpool. We’re relatively snow free in Oxfordshire (although I did manage to slip over in it on Friday night) but we’ve been treated to freezing frost today which made all the trees and grasses look spectacular this morning.

    I hope you get on fine without Tom for these few days and that it’s a good, confidence building exercise. I’m looking forward to seeing the new fishy design too!

  4. I can echo your sentiments about your faithful, wonderful Tom about my own faithful, wonderful John. Oh the things this precious husband has lovingly done as an act of love! Changing bandages of an open wound for 4 months! Understanding when I just can’t take another step. Holding me when I just need the reassurance that it’s okay to need his strength for the moment. Never a complaint. Never anything but love, praise, kindness, sweetness – all the things that one could ever hope for in a life’s partner – and more.

    I remember our first “separation” during my recovery – he went away for the weekend to a retreat with church. He needed to go away – and just have some normal. He was reluctant to go. I was a little afraid – but didn’t say so. It turned out to be a confirmation that I was, indeed, healing – and life would one day be “normal” again. Whatever “normal” means – in it’s new interpretation of it.

    Congrats on the milestones!

  5. I hope they have plenty of hot drinks on the train for your good man! If the fatigue and vertigo is your brain halting everything so it can integrate the new info, well, then I suppose it’s all worth it and might make it more tolerable. Congratulations on achieving some speed! And best wishes for the days on your own.

  6. wonderful beautiful snow. I love it but I am not the one who has to shovel it.
    after injuring my back I also had trouble with my left leg – 10 years later I have times where I don’t notice it but there are also times where I have to mentally cue my leg and tell it what to do- where as ‘normal’ people walk with out giving it a thought. the number of task our bodies perform is amazing.

  7. Kate: I forget now how I found your blog, but I am enjoying it and your efforts. My Mom had a stroke, but she was much older. I am a swimmer and there is a young man in his 40s that comes to the pool and works out in the wave pool (no wave on then) and you know few people speak to him. I always speak to him, as I see the effort he puts into his work out and admire him for it. He does a lot of “water walking”. I hope people acknowledge you and smile!!
    You seem to have come a very long way, Kate. Good for you. Enjoy the time alone – you will have completed another phase in your recovery!
    I think of you good folk and your unseasonable weather. We live on Vancouver Island – a 45 min. drive from Mt. Washington – which often has the most snow of any ski hill in the world! However, it is raining here in the valley while it snows on the hill.
    I will take the time to read your blog from its beginnings. Peg

  8. It is wonderful to see how positive you are, and that finally you feel you are making progress. You are an inspiration. Your photography today is just gorgeous! Best wishes Anne

  9. Kate you are an amazing, inspiring person and I love that you share all of your experiences in dealing with your stroke, I hope your few days alone go well, enjoy. :)

  10. The snow pictures are so beautiful, and I think you are doing amazingly well with all your walking and exercise.
    I made a batch of your Fat Rascals, which you shared on an earlier post, and they were so delicious. Next I make them I will do a double batch.
    Love your new boots for the snow too Kate.
    Thank you for sharing all these things.

  11. Keep going Kate, every few minutes is helping, sometimes the worse helps more than the better, if you see what I mean. Jesus is gorgeous.

  12. You continue to amaze me!! Yes, I’m sure there is a connection between that nausea and your leg’s improvement. Often, there is a small (?!) regression before a progressive leap. (Try to remember that when you feel like crud…) It’s quite amazing. And YOU are amazing!!
    Happy Monday! So much fun to see Bruce in the snow. Though I do hope Tom made it to his conference.
    World Of Spleens??? Do we get to know more? :o)

  13. No, I think most people *don’t* have the faintest idea how strange things are after a stroke–I know I certainly wouldn’t if you weren’t sharing your experience. Add to that difficulty the experience is different for every person…
    Thank you for the pictures of snow (how I wish I could see it firsthand) and I hope your days of total independence go well!

  14. I miss snow so much! At least I do when I’m down here in the south. I’m sure when I go to see my family over the holidays I’ll see enough snow for another year.

    Congrats on the walking!

  15. Kate, I to have been following your blog from just before your stroke, you contine to amaze me with your steely determination and perserverance to continue improving day by day.
    Good luck, with your next challenge of further independance over the next few days.

  16. Hi Kate,

    I wish I lived where it snowed!
    Just a note– I saw what looked like your button-eyed owls, made into gloves, on ETSY today. I’m not sure if this violates any agreements with you.
    You inspire!
    All the best,
    Kelly.

  17. Your nausea and improvement made me think about infants, how they often are cranky and crying more just before they make a leap in what they know. Maybe that’s because they feel bad, that their brains are processing all the new knowledge about how to do something.

    I’m happy to hear about your progress :)

  18. I wonder if the nausea and exhaustion is related to some kind of breakthrough or reconnection with proprioception (balance – google will have more)? The knee is very important in proprioception, and it’s disturbances in proprioception that cause the nausea we experience as travel sickness.

    Walk on!

  19. Kate, When you write your book about your experiences I think you will look back and be amazed at your insight and progress. It is amazing and fascinating to think of the visceral reaction to these leaps of neuroplasticity or whatever it is that’s happening in your resilient brain. I wish they weren’t followed by the fatigue, but I am so happy they are happening. Sending bus luck to Tom,
    Virginia

  20. I’m so happy to hear you are better. I bet the normal will continue to improve – it has done so over the years for me. It takes a lot more time than I first thought it would.

    I remember during a particularly bad MS relapse in which my speech was affected, I really wanted a t-shirt that said “I’m not drunk, I just have MS.” The funniest part was that my daughter was only a few weeks old and I could see passers by looking sorrowfully at us as I carried her along, and especially if I spoke to them in my garbled drunken way. They must have pitied that poor baby with the alcoholic ma.

  21. Gorgeous photos as always. Here everything is covered in snow, and will be for the next 4 months or so, but that grey branch-white snow-red berry combo never gets old! Actually, I started wearing more grey and red last year, and I think it was the influence of some of your photos.

  22. that is a very interesting and useful and possibly revolutionary insight: correct gait by effort blasts neu neuropath with accompanying vert and noz. i am proud of you.
    i know you and jesus and bruce will cook up something HOTT tonight.
    xxx

  23. I am loving your love affair with snow! We’ve been Skyping the girls’ family in Dublin and they are equally charmed by the fluffy white stuff. My advice for the next few days of single solitary habitation: crank up really loud whatever music of yours Tom simply can’t tolerate:)

  24. Since I totally agree with all the other comments and LOVE everything you have said and photographed – I will add that I’ve never heard the expression “pootle” before. Great expression!

  25. Fingers crossed that Tom makes it alright, and for your few days of independence.
    I’ve been enjoying the snow very much, and never tire of how it beautifies whatever it touches (even a snowy Murrayfield stadium managed to look ethereal in freezing fog).
    It’s interesting how much unaccustomed mental effort brings about fatigue, by which I mean thinking or learning in new ways, rather than the brain continued on with repeated and familiar patterns of action. On a way much lesser scale to yours, I always become knackered and completely famished after a hour spent reading new Japanese kanji. I feel like I have been growing new braincells.

  26. Staying on your own shows how far you have come, that you didn’t get someone to come and stay with you. My son would sympathise with Tom being stuck on a train – he was stuck on the M9 at Stirling last night for about 5 hours ……. he was particularly annoyed as he was beside a sign that said he was a third of a mile from his exit.

  27. Hi Kate, your photos are absolutely gorgeous. All the snow has melted here Down South, and I almost wish it would come back, although sparkly frosted pavements are quite pretty too I suppose.

    I was wondering actually if you’ve seen At Home with the Georgians on BBC2 (currently on Iplayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wh6lz/At_Home_with_the_Georgians_A_Mans_Place/), which my tailoring tutor reccomended we watch as background research for the 18th Century (I’m doing a degree in costume). Though still featuring the period re-enactments so beloved by the Beeb, it’s very sexed up – nothing like the dry documentaries of old. I wondered what your opinion on the matters discussed could be, since I’ve enjoyed reading your accounts of gender in society, etc, on here before.

    Congratulations on your progress with walking :)
    Anushka x

  28. You certainly have had quite a bit of snow lately over there! We have some but not a lot here in my corner of Ontario, although it is pretty chilly. Bruce looks like he’s enjoying it!
    On the topic of fabulous Tom…I have often thought while reading your posts that he just seems like such a wonderful partner and when I first read of your strokes I remember thinking to myself how glad I was that you have Tom and that he is the kind of person he is! I do hope you’ll pass on our “internet love” to Tom so that he’ll know that we are sending our support vibes his way as well as yours :-) I hope his time away speeds by and that you, he, and Bruce are one big(spirited) happy family again soon.

  29. Kate, you’re an amazing woman. Love your photographs, and I admire you for your design creativity, determination and stamina. A couple of questions, if you have a spare moment to answer, what is the “World of Spleens” that Tom is involved in, and living in Southern California with its heavily Spanish influence I’ve been trying to figure out the pronunciation of your cat’s name. Is it Jesus as in the Biblical child of Mary and Joseph, or Jesus (pronounced haysus) in Spanish? Good thoughts speeding your way.

  30. Kate,
    Not only are you brave and resourceful, you are a top-notch writer. I enjoy your blog, the bits of more scholarly writing that I’ve come across, and some day hope to read books – fiction or non, that you will write. Thanks so much for your good work.

  31. All around us is snow, but we have none still. I’m ready for a bit, but not the volume that stops trains and buses. Enjoy you bit of time alone, and tell poor Jesus that spring will eventually come. My Crouton is quite put out at the cold.

  32. You and Tom totally deserve each other – a great team. I know you both realise how lucky you are to have each other – I wonder how many of us stop and think – and are grateful for what – and who (whom? I never know) – we have.
    End of sloppy comment
    (I still think you should give Bruce to me, though…………..)

    Lizzi

  33. wonderful news!! it must feel so fulfiling to run and to have your legs working much better. let us know how the time alone goes when you get a chance. and good luck to tom getting out of the boonies… :)

  34. I know nothing about brains, but it sure sounds like something was slidding into place. And I know enough about migraines (too much unfortunately) to know that nausea follows …unnatural? not normal? irregular?… events in the brain.

    Wishing you the best in these first days of self-reliance. And yes, kudos to Tom for being the steadfast love of your life. :)

  35. Wonderful. wonderful!

    How lucky you are to have snow and the ability to move about in it. Thanks for the photos, and have fun having the place to yourself for a bit. Hope Tom isn’t stuck too long.

  36. As always, your story is fascinating and so well told. Your progress is absolutely remarkable and something to keep me feeling optimistic. Thanks.

  37. I must say I admire you greatly. Your family is love in action. It’s one thing to say I love you, it’s another to walk the talk. My sister became ill and my brother in law showed so much love. He took care of her in every way. So many memories of their love still are impressed upon my mind. It’s priceless. Blessed are the people who find it, maintain it, cherish it, and realize it. Salute.

  38. Great to hear that the walking and normalness are coming back to you. I hope Tom enjoyed Liverpool – I studied there for 5 years, and dont go back nearly often enough. Anyway. it’s good to hear about the leg – it reminds me of recovering from a skiing accident a few years ago – after rupturing various ligaments and spending some time in plaster, I also had to relearn how to walk normally. I did the same thing – spending time really concentrating on what I was doing. It’s mentally and physically knackering, but it did pay dividends. I was really thrilled when of my colleagues noticed and said ‘you’ve stopped limping!’

    Enjoy the snow while it lasts – although I’m a bit frustrated by it, I really dont want it to melt because I love it so much!

  39. Thinking of you and Bruce and Jesus, and hoping you are taking care of each other and that Tom is doing well on his journey.

  40. I have loved reading your blog for many months, even years now. I was stunned to read the news of your stroke earlier this year. Reading about your 25 steps of running in this post, made me whoop out loud. Wonderful wonderful news!!! You have shown such determination and grit, you are truly amazing. I really hope you are proud of all you have achieved this year. Let’s see more miracles from you in 2011. You can do it, I know you can! :D) Wishing all the best. Sarah

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