It's hard to believe, but it has been exactly one year since 'that day' happened. 'That day' started out like any other day. I woke up and got ready. I was running late for my girlfriend Ashley's birthday brunch like a total asshole and ended up taking a cab. I got up and faced the day like any other day. I ate waffles and it was a normal Saturday. For photographic evidence, see below.
The day was Saturday December 13th - it is a day that is going to be forever etched into my brain now for many reasons.
That evening, I was suppose to attend a dinner where my (now good friend) Charlotte Langley who was launching her new business, Scout Canning. She was holding it at her house and I was so excited that her and Jason Finestone, a freelance food writer in the city had invited me to come. After my busy day of being a typical Toronto girl (brunching and craft shows, oh my!) - I had come home to prepare for this special dinner and I was feeling weird. So naturally, I ignored my body because it seemed like the right thing to do.
Well, here's what happened next...
Friends - all I can recommend is to always and I mean, always - listen to your body! Because you never know what the fuck is going on inside of you.
The hospital at first could not give me a true diagnosis and sent me off to the Stroke Clinic for further testing. After what seems like many months and many doctor's appointments and lots of tears, my cardiologists finally told me that yes - I did indeed have a very small stroke which is what they call a TIA stroke. Before this day, I always thought that heart and stroke was for old people and I guess that just proves I'm super ignorant, even when I'm trying not to be. But also, I was scared because well, this was my heart! It's a vital fucking organ and I was freaking out and for a brief moment (being I'm dramatic, as usual), I kept thinking inside my head: am I going to die?
The best way I knew how to get through all the motions, all the feels and just all the anxiety was to post about my stroke and about what I was going through (aka. the doctors appointments and just the general everyday living) was by posting on social media. It was honestly the best way to get through the situation because to be quite honest: that's the only way I knew how to get by. But I'm not alone and I knew I wasn't alone. According to this ABC News article, more young women were having strokes stating "from 1995 to 2008, the number of women ages 15 to 34 who were hospitalized for stroke rose some 23 percent" and to be perfectly fucking frank, I believe it. When I announced online (via Facebook) what had happened with me, at least 3 women reached out saying they had had also had strokes. Since then, I have met another 3 women who have being being tested or suffered a stroke. This is all within one year and that is just of people that I know. The Internet is a big place, I know there are others out there.
Now I'm not a heart and stroke expert by any means - I'm an expert in my own personal experience, so I'm asking you to read this blog with a grain of salt and realize: I'm not a doctor, I'm just a person rambling about the feels and experience they have had. But after announcing that I had my stroke, the amount of people who made jarring comments about my stroke being somehow related to my weight and being a women of size. It was rude, upsetting and just not okay. People would unpack their own personal body related issues out on me (without knowing) by offering up or dishing out guidance but in reality they simply were concern trolling me, my body and my health by telling me things like I should "slow down" or "watch my diet" or "maybe try to lose some weight". Internally and externally, I felt like I was slaying dragons all around me. I felt like a fraud (trying to be a body positivity activist) who could barely believe in herself or my own body. It was difficult and hard. To those people who were apparently trying to help me: thanks but no thanks. It didn't help, at fucking all. It just made me feel worse, like I had been failing myself this entire time. In the time where I feel my most vulnerable, it just gave me even more reason to beat myself up and feel like I had just failed myself. The struggle is so real and your comments do not help. When I got the notification from my doctor that the whole reason I had the stroke was because of a large hole in my heart, I felt almost - vindicated. I don't even know if that's a good or bad thing but it's totally a thing I felt.
So why am I writing this piece? Well, for starters - I want other people to know that heart and stroke disease comes in all forms. People who suffer from stroke come in all different shapes, sizes and ages. Just because I'm a women of size doesn't mean that someone who is the complete opposite to me isn't suffering from the same thing. Bodies are weird, wonderful and fascinating things and this year has been an amazing journey learning so much about mine. There are so many misconceptions out there about heart and stroke and the effects it can have on day-to-day life, that I want to clear that up. You see: I'm one of the lucky ones. I had a small stroke that hasn't had a lot of impact on my day-to-day life. But I know there are others out there who have had their lives changed dramatically and maybe we should be talking about that. I want to tell their stories. I want to profile them. Let's talk about this and showcase them.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to profile those who have experienced a stroke in some form and how it has effected their life. I'll be posted my first profile next week. If you want to be profiled, e-mail me. I'd love to feature you!
For a bit of inspiration, check out this video of me talking about my very own stroke experience at Raconteurs Toronto - storytelling evening: