Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Next Step in Life's Journey

Well it has been an interesting finish to the year. I have been ready to go back to work for a few months now, but have been unable to find full time work in my selected field. It has been a struggle but I have kept active in volunteering for various organizations. On Friday I got the call I had been waiting for offering me a job. In January i will be the Executive Director for the Stroke Recovery Association of BC. I didn't actually go looking for this position because it is somewhat out of my comfort zone. However, I have long felt I need to use my recovery as an example to others. There are many people who need to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Rather than a dark hole they are sliding into. I have been granted an incredible opportunity to influence not only people's outlook on rehabilitation but also program delivery in the province. This is an exciting time in the province with stroke care and I am looking forward to helping improve the opportunities for stroke survivors.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Place at the Table

I was at Mt Seymour United church this morning and listened to a very interesting message as well as a great choir performance. Regardless of the controversy within religious circles, the United church stands proudly and significantly for inclusion of all colors, beliefs, creeds and sexual orientations. Although I have my own beliefs on some things, the church stands and welcomes all to the table. This invitation is often not presented to those with disabilities. Mt Seymour United church in particular needs support to carry on this message. Not everyone believes it is necessary to go to church to display their spirituality and Christian ways of living their lives. I don't deem to be a judge of people on that issue either. I have felt as much spirituality deep into a trail run. However, the movement away from regular attendance at church is challenging the finances of the church. Mt Seymour United delivers a great message that some people need to hear. Think of supporting them as a charitable donation although physical presence and volunteering has virtues all their own. I challenge you to help me help out this valuable organization.

Can't be great? Have a great team

On Labour Day I competed in the Vancouver Triathlon in the relay category with two other members of the NS Tri Club. I had a great team with a very fast swimmer to give me a lead and a great runner to bring us home. I was the weak link in a potentially winning team, however, I warned them up front. I did the 40 km bike leg consisting of 4 loops of the Stanley Park road. So I climbed up to Prospect Point 4 times but I also got a fast downhill run down the back side 4 times. Had incredible support from friends and family and lots of fun even though the road was very wet from the overnight rain. Now if only they will change the rule so I don't have to ask permission each time.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Power of Support & Positive Thought

This past weekend I was in Penticton to cheer on a friend of mine who was undertaking his first Ironman event. For those unaware, the Ironman consists of a 4 km swim followed by an 180 km cycle followed by a 42 km run. This is all done consecutively and must be completed in under 17 hours. This is an awesome undertaking and completion justifies the title. My friend did complete in 12 hours and 42 minutes. Another member of the club finished after 16 hours and forty minutes - 20 minutes under the cut-off of midnight after which you are not considered to have been an official finisher.

One of the curious hings I noticed about this event is how people responded to positive encouragement. We positioned ourselves along the 2 mile out and back finishing chute. It amazed me to see people who were having to walk on the outbound leg after positive encouragement were running on the return leg. Granted they could now see the finish line, however, the response achieved from positive mental energy from people who were 223 km into their event was astonishing. The positive mental imaging clearly empowered these people to overcome their fatigue and finish strongly. This kind of power needs to be remembered when facing challenges.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I was worried when I started this endeavour that I would have troubles in camp and concerned about the non-riding stuff. Danelle, her staff and the other participants helped me out tremendously and I needn't have worried. This was another situation where most of the participants were blown away that I was able to ride the mileage that I did. Everyone I talked to had someone they knew ho was struggling with something and they all said they were going to tell my story when they saw those people again. Many said they wouldn't be accpting excuses anymore.

Strangely enough I was never that worried about the cycling. Yes it was a huge challenge for me particularly seeing where my rehab started. However, the cycling was in my comfort space and it was simply a question of how far would my body let me go. I was pleasantly surprised to ride 143 km and follow that up the next day with 134 km. My weak leg has actually improved over the week of riding. But learning comes from repitition and how many revolutions are there in 800 kms.

I know that my story is having an impact. I am trying to figure out how to keep that moving forward for others to motivate them to make their own challenges. What's next? I have to convince an employer that I am worth the risk. Next activity is doing the cycle leg of the Vancouver triathlon with a yet-to-be determined relay team.

Oh yeah, currently the fund raising total is about $2,000 with several possible contributions still up in the air. Less than I had hoped for with a $15,000 goal but I still have a few ideas yet.

Day 7 Kimberley to Creston

Well our final day started with Greek breakfast. Some people didn't like it but I thought bagels with meat slices and cream cheese was just fine. There was no power down at our campsite so whatever they served had to reflect that. I thought it was great, except for the coffee.

Today's ride still had 2,695 feet of elevation gain but was a net descent for the 134 km. day. The hard about today was the carved rumble strips on the side of the road. Designed to keep slepy drivers from going off the road, they don't leacve a lot of room for a 31" wide trike between the road and the ditch. By the time I got to the lunch stop I was ready to pack it in. Brian said he would drive me but wouldn't be ready for 20 minutes. I decided I would start riding and have him pick me up. Well 20 minutes out from lunch we switched highways and lost the rumble strips so I kept going and waved off the ride. I ended up getting rained on but it was a very warm rain and rode all the way into Creston. Dave was waiting for me at the school so we went to the hotel to change and head to the pub for a well-deserved pint.

Day 6 Radium to Kimberley

Well today was 143 km and its a good thing it started out cool and overcast. It still ended hot but allowed me to get some distance in before it warmed up. Breakfast turned out to be eggs benny and fruit salad. Yum. Sorry that was yesterday - losing track. Today's ride had 3,695 feet of elevation gain with most of that climbing up to Kimberley which is at an elevation of just under 1,000 metres. It was a long day of riding taking just over 8 hours to get to camp. Just before town I rode by a place whose fence was all old skis. There must have been thousands of them. Another hot day but it ended with a dip in the river below camp. This was the longest ride I have done post-stroke and was very proud of myself.

Dinner was Greek night with roast potatoes, chicken and pork kabobs and salads. We also had awards night recognizing various accomplishments and faux pas. Danelle gave me an award for having the most wheels, which I think was her way a recognizing my accomplishment of riding 666 kilometres to that point. Just after the awards another storm hit and Sarah git drenched as I had to leave her out of cover. The "bent" group from Oregon set up shop under the shelter at the campsite for a little aperitif and cards. The rain didn't manage to put out the campfire but another day ended about 9:45 pm.

Day 5 Golden to Radium Hot Springs

Today was a relatively flat day after Day 4 although we still climbed 2425 feet in elevation. Another hot day ending in the high 30's. However, from camp we got shuttled by bus up to the Hot Springs. Today saw at least 3 Osprey nests on top of telephone poles. Huge nests that apparently they add to each year. Today was also the day for Big Horn sheep as there seems to be a family on the outskirts of town. Today's ride seemed almost easy after 4 days of riding. Starting to get into the groove I guess. We had a severe wind warning and the first of the thunder storms. we managed to get everything pegged down, although a couple of tents looked quite different after the wind blew through. Had a cold soak at the hot pools which felt great on the legs. There was an outdoor performance in Radium tonight which the noise entertained us for awhile. Bed called pretty early though once the rain started.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 4 Revelstoke to Golden

This day was planned for 154 km, however, I only managed 90. We left camp after eggs benny and fruit salad to climb 68 km to the summit of Roger's Pass. The roads were busy because we were on Hwy 1, however, the shoulders are excessively large. I made it to the summit but it took almost 6 hours as I climb kinda of slowly. However, lunch was at the summit and lots of photos were taken. We went through snowsheds going up and down and they were a little exciting with trucks close by. We had our flashers though so we ciould be seen from behind. One of the recumbent riders from Oregon said his thermometer was reading 106 F.

I rode the downhill and across the flats but once we started climbing again I knew I was done for the day. Brian picked me up with one of the ten tonne trucks and we drove in the rest of the way. Brian had to get more water because we ran out and had to buy another 20 large bottles. We arrived in Golden and just after my shower the power in the city went off.

Well we were a tad worried about dinner with no power. However, Dawnelle picked some salty caterers, this woman had already figured it out and delivered a fabulous chicken dinner on time. The mosquitos in Golden were horrendous so after my massage I went and hid in my tent until breakfast.

Day 3 Nakusp to Revelstoke

Lot's of ups and downs today with total elevation gain of 4225 feet. First water stop was @ 21 km after our first climb of the day. Lots of mountain scenery today and quiet roads. Another screaming descent to the Galena Bay ferry to cross Arrow Lake. Lunch was after the ferry ride at Shelter Bay. Had some great views of the Columbia River and crossed over a wooden bridge into Revelstoke. Had a spectacular dinner of roast beef with wild mushroom tortolini salads and rolls. Dessert was a frozen bumble berry cheesecake. We camped right on the edge of the Columbia River. I finished the day with a soak in the hot tub at the rec centre. Cold water was at a premium after another hot day.

Day 2 Woodbury to Nakusp

Day 2 was 115 km in more hot weather in the high 30's. I started riding just before 7 and got into camp after 3:00 pm for 8.25 hours of riding. We had a great coffee stop in Kaslo and then a 12% short rise out of Kaslo. Out of Kaslo we climbed steadily for 33 km to the Fish Lake water stop. After that we had a screaming descent into New Denver for lunch. Our next water stop was at Summitt Lake but a strategic lemonade stand made two little girls very happy with 125 thirsty cyclists going by. I understand they made almost $100. The final descent to Nakusp was another fun one. We ended the day with dinner at the Senior's Centre and me crashing in my tent by 9:00 pm.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day One Creston to Woodbury

Yesterday we arrived in Creston after a 9 hour drive. At the high school we had our bikes checked over by the mechanic and got our information packages. I went back to my hotel for my last good night's sleep for a week.

Sunday morning arrived at 6:00 am so that I could have breakfast and get to the school. As it turned out, Granny's at the Hacienda where I was staying was the only restuarant in town open early.

At 8:00 am it was time for the mayor's address and the start of the ride. As it turned out there were over 20 recumbents as a group of 16 came up from Oregon. Today's ride was 110 km with 3695 feet of elevation gain. We started around Kootenay Lake going past the Sidar pub and the Boswell glass house made from 500,000 empty embalming fluid bottles.

We rode into Woodbury Resort to our camp site which was kind of a mass camp with our tents scattered everywhere. Rather than a shower I opted for a swim in Kootenay Lake which I think was warmer than the shower water. Dinner was the cyclist standby of lasagna, salads and rolls in the downstairs of the pub.

I did it ....Almost

I had good intentions of posting each day's progress so people could follow along, however, when combining small town internet access and end of day fatigue from riding, it just didn't happen. So what I'll do is highlight each day one week late.

Friday, July 17, 2009

T-Minus one

Well tomorrow is the big day when we start driving to Creston. I think I'm ready. I seam sealed my new tent last night and I think I have everything I need. I have received good wishes from literally hundreds of people. As is the case with most things, I could always be better prepared, however, I'm finally getting excited. I honestly think I'm going to be able to do this. Who would have thought even as recent as a year ago when I was still looking at cyclists going by and thinking if only I could do that again.

It hasn't quite been a year since I bought my trike, but I estimate that I have about 1200 kilometres on it and should have my one year total to over 2,000 by July 26. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this effort. I will try and add posts during the trip if time and energy allow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 Days to go

Well I went out yesterday and bought myself a new tent. In my preparation, I discovered that since I can't balance on my knees, I can't get into my old pup tent without crashing through it. I have to say it doesn't owe me anything since I got it as a high school graduation present. Yes I did say high school. Thirty-four years is pretty good usage. Now if only some of my body parts did that well.

The daughter of a good family friend just finished riding from Vancouver to Tijuana on my old road bike. So I have a standard to reach for. My gear is almost ready and the carying rack apparently is ready for the support vehicle. Now that it is ready I hope I can get through without using it. The 150 km from Revelstoke to Golden might do me in though. The summit of Rogers Pass is 1332 metres after starting the day @ 440 metres elevation. I certainly should sleep well that night at least.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Eight Days to go

Well one week tomorrow I catch a ride to Creston to start my ride.
My schedule will be:
July 19th ride 110 km to Ainsworth Hot Springs
July 20th ride 110 km to Nakusp
July 21st ride 105 km to Revelstoke
July 22nd ride 150 km to Golden over Rogers pass
July 23rd ride 105 km to Radium Hot Springs
July 24th ride 139 km to Kimberley
July 25th ride 131 km to Creston
July 26th collapse on drive home to Vancouver
I am hoping to be able to ride the whole distance but I am trying to be realistic as well as optomistic. The support will be there but it is going to be extremely challenging.

On another note. I am quite excited for a stroke survivor I met from Saskatchewan. She recently acquired a recumbent trike and is now riding 10 km each day. That was great news. Cycling shoes have solved her foot attachment to the pedals problem just like I had.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Well this past week has been pretty good for training. I've ridden about 215 kilometres over the past week including riding 3 days in a row. I know that seems insignificant when compared to 115 km /per day average that I will be riding in three weeks time (whoops two weeks). The important part though is it is continuing to improve and I am feeling ready for the challenge. I am beginning to feel that my fitness level is more the limiting factor than the abilty of my left leg which is a huge change.

I started this project with the hope of inspiring other stroke survivors to push themselves to improve. I know it has had an impact on some people and I'm sure I will never know who may have benefited from it. I do know that the story has spread and it is my wish that people with challenges will continue to be inspired to a "can do" attitude.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tribute to A Non-Survivor

We had our program wrap up lunch today for the North Shore Stroke Recovery Centre. One of the volunteers handed around a brochure recognizing the death of one of our members. I met this gentleman while he was in the hospital after suffering another stroke. He had several over the past 8 years. They were the side affects from a brain tumor. I only met this person once but was very inspired by how he tackled his recovery which unfortunately he has had to do numerous times. When I met him he was training for a triathlon which inspired me tremendously. He was training irregardless of the fact that he might have another stroke at any time. He showed me that the important thing was to keep striving to move forward.

He unfortunately lost his struggle on June 28th but I believe he has left a legacy for all those who met him. To do less than my best would not honor his memory.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Less Than Month to Go

Realization has come finally that I am less than a month from starting this challenge. I have been riding between 80 and 120 kilometres per week, however, that will jump to my daily ride in just over three weeks. I am pleased that my left leg is spinning much better than when I first started riding, however, I am now really noticing how much fitness I have lost since my stroke. I will be doing 180 kilometres over three days this weekend riding three days in a row so that should be an interesting test. I suppose putting all the weight back on that I lost in the hospital hasn't helped. However, I find it hard to find an exercise that my body can do at a hard enough intensity to actually get aerobic exercise. My cycling is just about there, but my running is still just a walk.

The good news is that I honestly think that I am going to be able to ride the whole way now. The $64 question is how long will it take? Now I am trying to spread the word about the fund raising part of the trip.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Challenging Day

I've had great days and challenging days on my recovery road. Today has been a challenging day. I am working hard these days at finding employment which is a not easy in the current employment market. Another challenge is maintaining a positive attitude when you are constantly being evaluated by people. In our society, one of the big signs of one's worth and one of the first things people ask is - so where are you working? Although I have only recently been capable of working, being unemployed is a bit of an additional stigma. It appears that my disability provider has deemed that I am able to work so my benefits have ended. Finding work is one of the steps in my validating who I am post-stroke.

I have tried to overcome the disabilities that I currently still have through determination and positive attitude, but to an employer who doesn't know me yet is that sufficient to overcome the visible shortcomings I have in their eyes? I don't know the answer to that question yet as I haven't been given that chance. I sometimes wish my employer had handled things differently so that I would have had a job to return to. Returning to work and learning a new job will be challenging. Now I just need someone willing to take the chance and let me do it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Great Day

Well today I completed the Rob Leviton Memorial Spring Triathlon. I thought of Rob today a couple of times and saw his daughter Kim a few times at various places on the course. I was truly amazed by the number of people that were on hand at the finish line to see me in. Their encouragement and that of the other athletes was truly special. The race officials were wonderful working very much on an attitude of inclusion for me.
Although I almost panicked during the swim, I was actually 2 minutes faster than I predicted. Getting on the bike though I could feel how much the swim took out of my legs. My legs were pretty tired by the end of the ride. The run/walk leg went very well and I felt quite strong coming to the finish. Even as recent as a year ago I thought my triathlon days were finished. My rehab has made it possible to attempt a race suvch as this and I continue to improve daily on the swim and the bike.
I finished the day at a bar-b-que organized be friends to celebrate my finishing the race. They still don't realize just how much they support me to continue trying and moving forward. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rewards for Pushing Yourself

I got up this morning to a cold grey sky that looked all the world like rain. I had asked my friend Darcy to go for a bike ride with me but I really didn't want to ride in the rain. Since I committed to being there I headed out the door. At the 8 km mark on the road we found the tiniest bear cub I have ever seen in the wild. I'm sure it was a new born. It's fur looked like it had just been blow dried and combed. The poor little guy looked like he had just woken up to see two very weird looking things on wheels. I'd love to have gotten pictures, however, mama bear had yet to put in an appearance so we made lots of noise and then took off once we had passed him. He was still therte on the return loop which was a little more challenging since it was up hill.

The rest of the return leg we saw two deer at one spot and another bear just 1.5 km from the parking lot. Sometimes mother nature rewards you for following through with the hard stuff.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Supportive People

I am registered to participate in the North Shore Spring Triathlon on May 18. As it will likely take me 3 hours to complete this event, I have had some concerns about how my participation will impact the race. The biggest issue is the swim because I am very slow. Well I just talked to the race director about my concerns and his only real comment was you're doing the race - stop worrying about everything, that's our problem. It is all fine to make rules requiring acceptance of disabled athletes in your events, however, it does cause some interesting challenges for a group of volunteers to solve and work around in order for that to happen. The organizers of this race have openly accepted my participation and never once questioned whether I should be involved. The only questions have been what do I need to modify and how do we make it work. There have been more questions in my mind than theirs. If only the rest of the world was as accepting and willing to modify rules in order for everyone to participate. At least now the only barriers to completion are my own physical ones. Three straight hours of exercise will be a great achievement for me.

Friday, April 24, 2009


One of the real challenges as a stroke survivor is dealing with expectations. For me that is how much recovery do I expect to achieve and what does that look like. The problem is that you can't get verification from any medical practitioners because they tell you it is so related to each individual. What I end up with then is my own. But how realistic are they? My track record on realistic expectations has not been great. Afterall I told my boss I would be back to work 3 months post stroke. That was 23 months ago. I had no idea that I had made an impossible committment. However, I guess the important point is how do you deal with the results rather than the goals you set for yourself.

It is hard for me not to measure my worth by the extent of my recovery. I guess in some ways I still grieve for some of the things I have lost because those things so much made up who I was. So how do I set realistic goals to shape who I am to become?

I have registered to participate in the NS Spring Triathlon on May 18. Is this realistic or am I trying to recover some of my pre-stroke activities to prove my worth? My swim will be very slow and I will need to have the race modified in order for me to participate. It will take about 3 hours for me to finish if I do all three events. After my swim on wednesday my goal to complete the whole triathlon seems a bit lofty. However, after some contemplation my thoughts are now to line up a teammate to do the swim if I'm not ready in a month. In that way I can still participate. Afterall no one else expects me to be able to do a triathlon, it is only my own expectations realistic or otherwise.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Gret Day Yesterday

Yesterday my Team Stroke from the North Shore Stroke Recovery Centre completed the Vancouver Sun Run. Our team consisted of 6 stroke survivors of which five were walkers and one was a runner. The remaining members were staff or volunteers. Everything went well. Our runner came in at 1:03 after expecting 1:10. For several of the walkers it was a celebration to finish. Personally, I was 20 minutes faster than last year @ 2:07:43 which I am pleased with.

I also received an email yesterday from the husband of one of our Young Stroke group who shared some spectacular news. I have reported about her before progressing from 500 steps to 1500 steps using her cane. Well on April 14 she walked 40 steps on her own without any aids. Our walking group has been her inspiration and I can't wait to here her opinions about her new found independence after 2.5 years in a wheelchair. That ability to take your first walking steps unassisted is similar to those of a child's first steps except I don't remember those. I will always remember my first steps post-stroke though. Congrats Elizabeth. It's great to hear about so many achievements.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I received an interesting email yesterday regarding the use of my recumbent trike for triathlon. Although recumbents are considered illegal for the sport of triathlon, I am pleased to say that the Canadian officials in this sport have made the decision to allow me to partipcipate in the Spring Triathlon and see how it goes. This is a sprint distance triathlon which will require a 750 metre swim 20 km bike ride and 5km run ( or walk in my case). Now that I have my approval I guess I have to realize that I will be doing this. I expect it will take me in the neighbourhood of three hours. Now I need to get myself ready I guess. There will be some interesting issues like getting out of the pool and walking without shoes but I'm excited about doing a little of something that I used to do pre-stroke.

It is nice to see people making positive steps towards inclusion. That helps to counteract the cyclist on thursday that called me a f....ing cripple because he thought I was in his way when he approached me from behind. I thought of the perfect rebuke except I didn't come up with it until today. What I should have said was "I know what my problem is... apparently you don't know what your's is". Despite that, yesterday was a good day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

I listened to a very thought provoking sermon this morning. Reverend Nancy talked about praying for people living with disabilities and challenges in their lives. My first thought was how does one live with challenges and sudden changes in their lives. I think my personality allows me to approach challenges from a more positive viewpoint. Even though I believe there is much recovery yet to come, I really needed to find a way to participate with things as I recover. But that requires accepting that change has occurred. I was thinking during that sermon that I am very lucky to be able to find ways to continue to participate in the activities that I love. But the biggest part of that is attitude. If you believe that you can do something you will find a way to make it happen.

The reason I am attempting this trip is partly therapeutic for myself to prove to myself I can still do it. But the other reason is to show strokers what is possible. I am not as good good with words to motivate people so actions seems to be a better approach. I'm hoping that strokers will see that if I can do this then maybe walking to the library is within their reach. Maybe being a little less dependent is a possibility. This is about improving quality of life and extending oneself. Believe me this is going to be a stretch for me. Remember, never give up.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's not the riding I'm Worried About

I was thinking today about some of the challenges to be faced on this trip. Setting up my tent one-handed ought to be interesting. Getting dressed in the morning. Since I normally get dressed sitting on the edge of the bed or in a chair, lying on the floor in my tent will be different. I still haven't learned how to change a tire on my trike using only one hand. Transporting my gear to-and-from the truck at camp each night will require some thought. Getting my trike and I to and from Creston without taking our Van for a week. I guess I'll need help putting on sun screen so I don't burn the right side of my body (I can reach the left).

It looks like the riding is going to be the easy part. Now if only I can get some decent riding time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Life's little challenges

Well two weeks ago I was out with my walking group for our Sun Run training. We had been out for about 60 minutes and I managed to find the missing cobble on the cobble stone pathway. I went face first down the slope landing on my two forearms. The good news is my reaction time in my weak arm is improving. The bad news is I snapped the bottom off my fifth metacarpal bone. You'd be amazed how many times those bones in the palm of your hand get used. I now have it splinted but it is very painful at times. I guess if I didn't push it I wouldn't have broken my hand, however, I also wouldn't be getting better.

Today I also realized that the Sun Run is 3.5 weeks away and the bike trip is exactly 3 months after that. Time to get serious about training.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Power of Inspiratrion

Inspiration is a funny word. Many people have told me that they are inspired by my recovery and my attitude. On the contrary, many people have provided me with inspiration. On saturday, the North Shore Young Stroke Survivor's group manned one of the aid stations at the Dirty Duo race in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. One of our group members, ran the 25 km trail run event. His biggest area of deficit is vision loss and believe me trail running is about seeing. We asked him about falling when he runs and his comment was I guess I have to get back up.

He joined our walking group about two months ago and does most of his travel by public bus. When asked about wasn't he sad about what he had lost his only comment was it could have been so much worse. People like this give me inspiration to accept that my life has changed and to find ways of doing the things I want to do.

Another member of my group came on our walks in November in her wheelchair being pushed by her sister/care giver. She was very proud to announce on her first day that she could walk 500 steps using her cane. Well when she arrived the following week with the same story of 500 steps, I mildly chastised her by saying no that was last week. We need a new number. I am very proud to say that according to her husband I have had some influence in her now being up to 1500 steps. The biggest thing is she now views her wheelchair as a rest station rather than a mode of transportation. She transfers from her wheelchair to her cane or a chair for exercise class rather than sitting in it all the time. My inspiration to continue comes from people like these.

A group member once asked me where I get the courage to do what I do. I would never have used the word courage to describe my rehab process although I understand now how some people could view it that way. I believe my basic philosophy of life comes from my dad. He never allowed me to think that something was not possible. He instilled in me a belief that I could learn to do anything. The quality of performance might be iffy, but I could learn anything. That's probably why I never once believed that I would not be walking again or learning to ride using a recumbent trike or for that matter swimming. My swimming, cycling and walking don't look a lot like they used to, but I am still doing all three and when my fitness level gets there, I want to try another triathlon. I just have to convince the race organizers to keep the course open long enough for me to finish. Speed is a bit of a deficit still. Although I think dad would be proud of what I have accomplished so far, he is responsible for the attitude I have of "never give up."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How to Donate

There are a couple of ways to donate to my project. All payments will be processed by the North Shore Stroke Recovery Centre which is a federally registered charity and, therefore, all donations will be eligible for the charity tax credit. Cheques made payable to the North Shore Stroke Recovery Centre can be sent to 225 East 2nd Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7L 1C4. Please provide a short note that this is to support the Can do Bike Tour. Secondly, it is now possible to donate on-line using a credit card by using the hot link attached to the NSSRC website @ http://www.nssrc.org/ Canadahelps.org is the same payment processor used by the Heart & Stroke Foundation for the Big Bike fund raising event. Using the donate now button will allocate the funds directly to the Can do Bike Tour. 100% of the funds donated will go to equipment purchasing as I am paying for the tour participation myself.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Purpose of the Ride

One of the outcomes of stroke is that various systems in the brain have been damaged. For some people, like me, the biggest area of damage is in the motor planning area of the brain which has affected my left side motor movement and proprioceptive balance. For some it is primarily cognitive, for some it is vision, for some it is motor language and for some it is a combination. The type of sytem damage that occurs is all dependent upon where the brain damage has occurred. One of the clearest concepts in the rehab process is that to create repair to these systems requires them to be stressed and challenged in order for the brain and the body to adapt and for re-wiring too occur.

Initially I lost even my awareness I had a left side of my body. I remeber early days in the hospital telling my sister that I had lost my soup at lunch time. No that's not like losing your cookies, I thought someone had taken it. In actuality it had just disappeared from my vision on the left side. Turning my head a little and voila it wasn't gone afterall. My peripheral vision is now back in acceptible norms.

From a walking perspective, I have spent many hours leaning to my left trying to re-orient my body to know where vertical was. That required leaning against a wall and having a pole beside me for support so I could challenge that balance system safely.

In order to safely challenge some of my motor planning and movement, there is some equipment that would help myself and others to safely push back those barriers to improvement. By attempting this bike ride I am asking for your support to raise money in order to acquire the equipment to help people help themselves. This is specialized exercise equipment that is either adapted or has additional safety features. I spent lots of time on a regular treadmill, however, I also ended up on the exercise room floor a couple of times when I tripped. You see being able to use only one hand, changing settings becomes challenging because you have to let go with your only support in order to do that. One of the pieces of equipment I want the centre to have is a treadmill with a safety sling and overhead frame. With that you can practice getting faster with the safety of knowing you won't crash off the back of the treadmill.

The exercise bike was great for me to get my left hamstring activated and starting to work. However, because of my poor balance, it had to be a seated or recumbent bike. Right after I was discharged fron the hospital I had no ability to lift my foot into the air. Hence it was constantly falling off the bike pedals. What I discovered was using my cycling shoes and clipless pedals I taught my left leg how to cycle again by having my good leg pull it though the cycle with the clips. The challenge is to find a way to have universal size bike shoes. Pyro plates, a product out of the US will allow us to modify recumbent exercise bikes for various size running shoes that can strap on a rigid plate with embedded cycling cleat. The result will be mulit-size cycling shoes that will match each individual running shoe. Having this equipment will enable people to challenge themselves towards improvement. It is hard work but it can be done.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Route

Danelle Laidlaw, operator of TourBC has graciously allowed me to piggyback her tour in order to undertake this fund raising event. The tour consits of 7 days of riding covering 850 kilometres. The tour is fully supported with meals and snacks included. The communities we will go through include Ainsworth Hot Springs, Nakusp, Revelstoke, Golden, Radium, Kimberley as well as starting and finishing in Creston. One of the highlights will be going through Rogers Pass. There will be over 100 riders on the trip of varying abilities using recumbents, tandems and regular road bikes. For more information on the tour see www.tourbc.net and you can follow the route. I have completed 6 previous tours with Danelle, however, this will be the first one following my stroke.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My hospital rehab

One of the first things that my physio worked on was getting me to be able to sit up on my own on the edge of a bed. Literally that took weeks before I could sit upright without assistance and without toppling over. Your trunk balance was needed before you could sit in a wheel chair. The next thing they worked on was getting me into a standing frame so that I could get weight onto my legs. The next task was working upon my standing balance so I could actually stand without holding onto anything. I will always remember the look on Margaret's face when she came into the hospital to visit and I stood up on my own. What an accomplishment after 2 months in bed. By standing on my own, I was able to start transferring to a wheel chair without assistance. Another celebration, until I fell in the lounge trying to get back in my chair from the couch. My break had come off.

Another celebration was being allowed to go downstairs on my own in my wheelchair to get a cup of coffee. Freedom. Not without comedic complication. You try wheeling a wheelchair in a straight line using only one hand and a cup of coffee between your legs. Fire doors were also a real challenge. I had to get close to the door, push the bar hard with my one good hand, then try and wheel my chair through the opening as the door rapidly closed. Coming home from weekends, I also had a clothes bag in my lap.

Finally came using the bars where I was able to work on bending and straightening my legs and that magical moment when I got to try lifting my feet to actually move forward. I didn't get just forward though, they made me do backwards and sideways as well.

The next big step was taking away the bars and using a quad cane. A regular cane with four feet rather than one. What a sense of independence. I loved walking the halls just to be moving. God help the person that moved one of the hallway chairs on the rehab floor which was the rest stop locations.

The next big step was when Leslie took Carl and I outside to work on the sidewalk and hillside. We had to wait for each other sitting in our wheelchairs like blind beggars with our shades on. Coming in from outside, the best part was getting to walk up the 5 flights of stairs to get back to the rehab floor. What an accomplishment. After 3 months and one day, Iwas released from the hospital to continue my rehab at home.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Power of Supportive Positive People

It truly amazed me how many people showed up when my family needed help. The North Shore running and triathlon communities have some very special people. The hospital staff were also great. When they first found I was sick, there was a meals on wheels set-up to help my wife keep all of the balls in the air. Running the house, making meals and visiting me in the hpospital for three months was a tremendous feat. The tri-club really helped out. Another angel on our team was Denise Morbey who is a physio in West Vancouver. She would come and visit me and helped me retain range of motion in my left arm and leg until they started to work on their own. Talk about service, straight to my hospital bed. One of those people who can never really thank enough. When I first started coming home from the hospital on weekends, I had members of the NS Tri Club carry me up and down the stairs of my house in my wheelchair so I could be at home. These people have been incredibly encouraging throughout my rehab and seeing their accomplishments as triathletes and runners has kept me motivated to continue pushing for improvement.

It took me almost 16 months to realize that it was unlikely I would fully recover. What kept me going during that time was focusing on total recovery. In July of 2008 I began to realize that I could no longer rely on total recovery and I had to start facing what activities I was no longer able to do. Jennifer Allen, the Social Worker at the lions Gate Out-Patient Rehab Program helped me to see that although I could no longer do things the way that I used to, it didn't mean they couldn't be done. She helped me to realize that I couldn't cycle anymore on a typical upright road bike, however, a recumbent trike was quite possible. That is the attitude I try to continue to maintain. Now I look at how I have to modify things in order to participate rather than what I can't do. My friends continue to help me by inviting me along on their activities.

This melding of my old attitude of try anything once, with the need to find new ways to participate has been the turning point in the emotional part of my rehab. This is also what has led me to be a volunteer Co-ordinator for the Young Stroke Survivor's Group with the North Shore Stroke Recovery Centre. Hopefully I can draw other stroke survivors along with my new attitude.

How it happened

I had been hydrating for the Vancouver First Half Marathon to be run on Feb 11, 2007. At about 3:00 in the morning on Feb 10th I woke up needing to go to the bathroom, however, when I tried to rollover to get out of bed I discovered I couldn't move anything on the left side of my body. I was unable to sit up and I couldn't move either my left arm or leg. I woke my wife up who called the ambulance. At the time I remember feeling very analytical about it. This paralysis seemed very strange, I wondered if I had eaten something that was off. Initially I didn't have a headache, however, after being awake for a few minutes the headache started and I started having trouble breathing. As it turns out the stroke affected the motor planning area so although I initially had some vision issues and slurring of words, the primary deficits were and continue to be motor function on my left side.

Ultimately I spent three months in the hospital with seven weeks in and out of the critical care unit in neurology and 5 weeks on the rehab floor. It was 2 months in the hospital before I was allowed to transfer from bed to wheelchair by myself. I was discharged using a quad cane and told to get a wheelchair. Well, once I started using a cane going back to a wheelchair seemed to be a step backwards. I haven't used one since.