On December 16th, almost one month ago, I shared my story about having a stroke and I did a call out for other women and their very own stories on the blog. Finally, I'm here to share another women's story. Her name is Sophie Delancey, and she is many things - a sexuality advocate, writer and educator based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Much like me, Sophie's life dramatically changed one fateful day last year, entirely out of the blue and without warning all at the age of 28. Because of this - Sophie and I have developed a special connection of sorts and a special kind of bond.
I asked her to share her story with me about what her experience was like and how her life has changed and the advice she can give to others who may be going through the same experiences she is having.
How did you realize you were having a stroke, did you have typical stroke symptoms?I got really dizzy about a week and a bit before my main event strokes, but I just played it off and went to bed early with a cool cloth on my forehead. Turns out that was a stroke. On May 21st, I had two more substantial strokes and actually went to the mirror and did the FAST test (looking for facial symmetry, arm weakness, slurred speech) and was totally fine. I was just really dizzy, nauseous and eventually had trouble walking by the time the third stroke rolled around. Even then, I thought it was something else because, as people generally assume, strokes aren't supposed to happen to young, healthy people like me. Maybe it was sudden onset vertigo, a really weird new migraine or even an aneurism. I didn't actually realize that I was having a stroke until I was being transported to the hospital and the paramedics kept saying the word stroke.
What was your first reaction when you found out you had a stroke?I was very out of it for the first few days, so the diagnosis kind of seeped in slowly and gave me a lot of time to come to terms with the stroke. It definitely felt surreal, but I was so profoundly impacted that I knew it was the correct diagnosis. Mostly it was just kind of shocking and felt very unfair.
How has having a stroke changed your day to day living?Lots. I used to be a young go-getter with a million projects on the go. I still try to be like that, but it's a lot harder now since I'm still healing. My company also started the shutting down process while I was getting ready to go back to work, so I'm "freelance" now. I use quotation marks because my ability to focus and be productive have taken a hit with my post-stroke fatigue, so I'm not writing/working on projects as much as I'd like. I lost use of my right vocal cord, so my extensive background in opera and other kinds of singing (even karaoke) is over and I have a quieter, raspier speaking voice now. I can't feel the left side of my body from the neck down and my right hand/right side of my face feel partially numbed. This impacts the way I move through space, how connect with the world and the experience of having sex. My balance has been profoundly impacted because the stroke impacted my balance centre and my eyesight, which has thus far kept me from dance/yoga/more substantial workouts and now I use a cane.
Are you still in the process of finding out the cause of your stroke? I am one of the very small percentage of people who have a stroke for absolutely no discernible reason. I mean, it was caused by a vertebral artery dissection, but the reason for the dissection itself is a total mystery. There was no major injury or pain, no underlying causes... It just happened, which is a thing that can occur in rare cases.
Do you have any advice for those out there who may have just had this diagnosis and don't know what to do or better yet, who to talk to?Definitely get some type of therapy/counselling. It's hard to access low/no cost mental health services, but finding someone like a social worker with a background in counselling is doable and mostly free. You've experienced a pretty unique kind of trauma and even the well-meaning people in your life might now be able to listen/help you process in the way that you need. Work through your doctors and the hospitals/rehab facilities you've been to. They have lists of resources and often internal programs for stroke survivors. Group therapy with other stroke survivors/people living with brain injuries can also be helpful.
If you would like to follow some of Sophie's work - visit her latest blog, Up Down & Out- a realistic read on life, period alongside fellow writer & co-hort Kirthan Aujlay or if it's something smutty that your heart desires, check out the Tell Me Something Good podcast she co-hosts with Samantha Fraser.
I am still looking to tell more stroke stories and if you (or someone you know) is female and young and would like to share their story, then please e-mail me. I'd love to feature you on the blog in the coming weeks!