I had recently fought through four days in a row at the gym. Most of those mornings I had awakened at 6:00. I was so sleepy that it would take me over ten minutes to put on my clothes. Once I was dressed, I would take Mary out. She would have to finish quickly because I had to be back by 6:30 so the assisted living staff could stretch my shoulder and arm. Then there was e-stim, shower, breakfast, thigh exercises, and more. Although I had carefully scheduled time for each of these activities, it was still a struggle to stay awake through all of them.
One strategy I tried was drinking an energy drink. I would wait until Mary and I were back from outside, then I would crack it open and I would swallow my morning meds with it. I would casually sip it during the half hour I had to sit for my e-stim treatment. If there was more than a swallow left, I would drink the rest with breakfast. After that, I would brush my teeth and go downstairs to wait for the bus. The walk to the lobby would usually be enough to wake me up enough to be alert for my ride.
Now that it was my day off from the gym, I was able to sleep in. Getting up later meant that I didn’t need an energy drink to stay awake. I was also able to keep Mary outside for much longer. I showered and got ready for my trip to get my head shaved, then on to a Southern restaurant I had been wanting to try for more than a year.
Since the stroke, I had been going to the barbershop to have my head shaved. However, I had recently regained confidence in doing it myself and now went only once a month for a professional cut. When I arrived there that day, it was packed. There were so many people that I wondered whether my turn would come during the ninety minutes until my bus arrived. A gentleman recognized me from the gym. He hadn’t seen me in a year, and he remarked at how much better I was walking. I told him a little about my program and plans.
It took an hour, but they got to me with about thirty minutes to go. I was now flexible enough to lean over while in the chair, and place my lanyard and earbuds on the counter so the stylist could cut around my neck. It felt good not having to worry about falling over. Since all I was having done was a shave, it didn’t take long. I was out of the barber chair and waiting for my ride with twenty minutes to spare.
When the bus got there, I decided to try stepping up onto the bus with my left leg. I was surprised at how easy it was. At the beginning of the year, I hadn’t even been able to step on a curb with any regularity. My leg muscles seemed to be gaining strength more rapidly than my other muscle groups even though I was only doing my leg lifts once or twice a week. This only reinforced my feeling that I could be walking without my cane if I just kept at it.
One of the reasons I had wanted to visit the restaurant was that I needed to pick a location for my birthday dinner. The dining area turned out to be a tiny storefront where they crammed in as many tables as possible. I asked them to seat me at a booth. Since this meant that I would be sitting on a shared seat against the wall, I had to turn and sidle between two tables, and I half expected to trip or to upset the glasses when I put my hand down to steady myself. But I didn’t need to. I was able to scoot sideways into the booth with no problem.
I ordered fish with red beans and rice and pickled string beans. These were all appetizing dishes separately, but I was surprised to see them arrive in one bowl. I didn’t want them piled atop each other. So I used my plate to separate them out, and each was very good. It felt wonderful to just be able to eat and relax. I didn’t need to worry about money or getting to a lobby to meet Metro Mobility. It gave me an idea of what life would be like when I didn’t need to work out so often to rehab.
I had my quarterly Botox injections the next day. I was extremely excited for them because I was really starting to hit my stride in the gym. My leg was getting much stronger and my speed was improving I planned to start walking outdoors without my cane in May. So this and the July round of Botox would occur during the ideal times for outdoor practice. By the time of my October injections, it would start getting too cold to spend a lot of time outside.
The first thing I did at the doctor’s office was make sure they weighed me. I was disappointed to see that I hadn’t lost any additional weight since March. But I was still down five pounds for the year, so I was doing a great job of staying active. I made a mental note to eat less meat and more vegetables so I could lose even more weight and ultimately allow my doctor to treat my blood pressure less aggressively.
After they took me back to the examination room, I sat down to remove my shoes and brace. I realized that so much of the weight loss was in my stomach that it was easy to bend down to take off my shoes. I had needed the nurse to help me do this before. Now this was one more thing I could do by myself. I was so excited that I didn’t even feel the needle go in. The shots were over in no time.
I was about to leave when I remembered to tell the doctor that she needed to evaluate my left shoulder to see why it was causing me pain. She tried manipulating my arm, My shoulder hurt immediately. So she typed up an order for a same-day x-ray and another for physical therapy. They would call me with the results by the next day. I decided not to lift weights and risk further injury. They never called to give my results, but since it was done at the same hospital where I would be attending physical therapy, I would just request it at the time of my first therapy session.
A couple of days later, it was time to shave my head again. As with the first two times I had shaved it, I blocked out an hour on my schedule. I anticipated having to go back over it several times until my right arm got tired. But my hair was still very short, so it went fast. I could feel what I was doing to the back of my head, so I shaved it pretty evenly. When I felt it was done, I sat down and took a snapshot of the back of my head I had only missed one small area. I put shaving cream on that spot and scraped it until I could hear no more hair being cut.
With my head freshly shaved, I felt fresh. I grabbed Mary’s leash and took her outside. It had been dreary and cold the day before, so we had only stayed out for twenty minutes. Today it was warm and sunny. I let Mary play for an hour. Before we went in, I walked over to opposite side of the patio where a flight of steps leads to an upper patio area. Mary always wants to go up there to explore. Last year, it had just seemed dangerous. I had made a great deal of progress with my body over the winter, so the steps didn’t seem nearly as forbidding. I vowed to myself that I would climb them before the end of the month.
My body wasn’t fully recovered, but I was getting exercise almost every day, and things were moving in the right direction. I was more concerned about Mary. She was unable to leave the building most days. The person who used to walk her for me had decided to stop doing so, so she wasn’t getting her daily walks to the park. I was still unable to drive, so I couldn’t take her to the dog park either. What would have been ideal was if she had another dog in the building to play with, but the other dog owners almost never brought their dogs out when I was out with Mary.
One week I wanted to ask my friend Sandra to come over and bring her dog Rocket. Rocket had been around Mary before, but he largely ignored her, as he’s the type of dog that prefers playing Fetch and Tug-o-War with humans. Mary enjoys the stimulation of having another dog to follow around. It doesn’t matter if she’s the only one playing Chase.
The same afternoon I was set to call Sandra, she called and asked if she and Rocket could come over the next day. Mary was delighted when everyone walked in. She jumped up on the couch and greeted Sandra face-to-face. After that, she got down on the floor and started trying to chase Rocket around. After a few minutes, she saw that he was more interested in her chew toy than her. So she just started running between Sandra and me so we could take turns petting her.
After half an hour, we took the dogs out into the backyard. The weather was nice, so even though I was exhausted from the gym, I wanted Mary to be able to get exercise. I sat down at a table and asked Sandra to walk Mary around the yard. Mary enjoyed being able to move at a faster pace. Any time I can have Mary out to experience the sights, smells and sounds of the world, our life feels like a dream.