What Life is Like, 4 Years After Stroke

During the first and second years of my recovery after stroke, I went through a grieving process. In the third year, I felt like I was living in the past—or at least thinking a lot about the way life used to be.

I was consumed with trying to get things back to the way they used to be. I had a wonderful life, and with no time to prepare, I lost so much.

Focus on Moving Forward

But in the fourth year, something shifted. I don’t know how, or exactly when, but I started to focus on simply moving forward from today, every day. I am in a better place now than I have been for some time.

The Richards Family on Brittany’s wedding day: brother, Dustin, left, Brittany, Christine and dad, Loren. 

The effects of my stroke created low self-esteem. I was worried about how people would react to my aphasia, and I knew my brain wasn’t functioning as it had before.

In trying to re-understand things I used to do without effort, I became more of an observer. For instance, it was hard for me to carry on a conversation. A friend would greet me: “Hi, Chris, how are you today?” I would answer: “Good.” That was it.

I couldn’t formulate how to end a conversation; I often just walked away. I knew that something was awkward, but I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong.

Re-Learning How to Tell a Story

So I started paying more attention to how others told stories, and how they interacted with each other. Just as I had I taught my little first-graders over so many years, a story has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Now I am much more likely to initiate a conversation, and feel confident that there will be little, if any, awkward moments. I also feel that my brain is getting sharper and that my speech is getting better.

I think the reason is that I am teaching myself to act and sound more like others. I observe people, and see where my speech and conversation need to change to be more natural.

I Feel Better Now

My physical health is also much better than it has been for many years. I have wonderful doctors making sure my heart works correctly, and I feel better now than I have ever felt.

One of the things that has been most helpful to my recovery over the long term is continued inclusion by my family, friends and co-workers. The things we do now are not much different than what we did pre-stroke. Co-workers, especially, have shown me trust, confidence and caring.

Life After Stroke is Good

I am often asked to take a class or a group of students when the regular teacher is absent. I am given tasks and projects, and trusted to get them done without anyone worrying that I might not be able to understand the assignment.

Having patience is also helpful during recovery from stroke. My speech issues can sometimes make a 30-second sentence take several minutes, especially when I am tired.

Also, there are some things I do differently, or don’t do at all, since my stroke. I know this can be frustrating for my family—like having an inconsiderate roommate! If you don’t receive patience and understanding, these things can tear a family apart.  But I do have that that support!

Path Toward Healing

Over the years since Christine Richards’ stroke in 2014, she and her family have used CaringBridge for health updates and support that Christine describes as “hugs and pats on the back.” Hoping to inspire other families who have been through stroke, the Richards family has reflected on its “new normal,” what it is like to live with aphasia, how families can show support and simply how to heal.

October 29 is World Stroke Day

World Stroke Day, annually observed on October 29, underscores the serious nature and high rates of stroke, raises awareness of the prevention and treatment of stroke, and highlights the importance of better care and support for survivors. The American Stroke Association recommends that you act F.A.S.T., at the first signs of stroke.To learn more about how to handle life after stroke, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org.

New to CaringBridge and Wondering What We Do?

CaringBridge is a nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during a health crisis through the use of free, personal websites. Know someone who could benefit from starting a CaringBridge site to keep loved ones informed and get the love, and support they need?

Learn more

  • ken wilson

    i had a stroke in 1979 when i was 29 and now i am 71. i have a noticeable disability in my right side: arm, hand, right leg and foot. two heart attacks, one in fall of 95 again in spring of 2017. i have been hospitalised several times for pulmonary embolisms. i have been operated on my skull for a brain bleed in 2011.

    in the fall of 79 was the first time i was hospitel. around 3 days in a coma was enough for me; on the 4th day i was out of there. i say this to lighten the load i’m carrying. i learned nothing from the near death experiences till the time of my subdural hematoma, brain bleed.

    during Sabbath, on saturday in the beauty of wisconsin’s summer of july, i heard part of a missionaries speech on Paul; most importantly, i heard the words of the Holy Spirit, talking to me in a factual manner. He told me that i had a chance of meeting Him in Heaven.

    of course He talked non-stop about many different things which was perplexing myself. the next day, july 24, i was admitted to the hospital and monday morning i had my operation.

    i am cutting this short, probably, because i get lonely talking to my self.

    sincerely,
    ken

  • Billy V.

    Hi Patricia, Thanks for sharing your story. I am glad you are feeling better.
    3 months after a car rear-ended me and caused a concussion, I had not reported all my symptoms as I learned now 4 1/2 years later as my insurance company drags out a settlement, that when I slurred my words and struggled to lift my arms to leave the car, that these symptoms and a few others are stroke-related.

    When I recanted all my initial symptoms, as others soon revealed themselves – memory loss, equilibrium loss, massive headache, brain fog, joint pain, and dementia, the mix was both stroke and concussion-related.
    When my wife brought me to the hospital 3 months later, she had only seen two symptoms – word slurring and upper body weakness. The day of my car accident, at least 45 of my symptoms were stroke symptoms.

    My logical conclusion is the whiplash car accident caused both the concussion and the stroke. My doctor said I was having an embolic shower-like stroke. Research infers if I have a concussion or a car crash with stroke symptoms (I had both), I would have the actual stroke 3 months to a year later.

    Is there any research I can reference to gain a better insight on what happened and why? I am on Warfarin and that helps. But I want my life back and this irresponsible accident prevented me from opening my new business to help shape the future of work, for 4 1/2
    years now.

  • Diane Louise

    Thank you for sharing your story – it gives me hope – I am about 2 1/2 years post stroke

  • Sue Haithcock

    Christine i admire you for your courage and faith in yourself!! I know this has been one of the hardest battle you have faced and look how far you have come!! I can only imagine the your thoughts of despair when you first learned of your stroke but you have come so far!! You got this Girl!!!??

  • Jerry Quinn

    Hi,
    I just read the article on life after a stroke,it describes everything my brother-in-law is facing now 17 months after his stroke.He feels like quitting and just dying but he can do things when he
    forgets himself so l keep trying to help him.He will do things for me but won’t do those same things for his wife. I am going to show this article to him and let him see he is not alone. Thanks.

  • Tam

    Inspiring, courageous, grateful, amazing…all these words fit you and your journey perfectly! Your story has, and continues to inspire people not to give up and to keep fighting, not matter what their particular battle is! I was so glad to see you guys at Dad’s memorial service, and can’t wait to see you in July! Always thinking about you guys!

  • Diane (While) Spearnak

    Chris, you are such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story. Through your bravery, I now have a new level of understanding for all people who have had a stroke. You have been through so much, and you have also shown yourself and everyone who knows you that there is happiness and good health after a significant life altering event! I so admire your courage not only in sharing your story, but also in the daily struggles you face. You are a strong woman! I continue to send good vibes, hugs, and prayers your way!

  • Janice Sexton

    Chris you are such an amazing woman; THANK YOU for sharing these past four years and sharing with such an honest approach. The post I just read was so inspiring; to share with us such personal feelings took such bravery, but having followed you and your family in this journey, it didn’t surprise me one bit. I am so very thankful to have you as a friend; I have learned and grown so much thru your trials. Love you and God Bless you and your family.

  • Marcie Tanner

    Thank you for the update and for sharing so openly about your struggles and successes. I’ve learned so much from you, my friend!

  • Sue Augustine

    Chris,
    I learned a lot from you in the short time we got to work together after your stroke. You are an amazing person! I think our talks were more meaningful because we had to slow down and truly focus on each other. I wish we had more time together teaching. People can be so clueless, but obviously you have no time for the pettiness. You are busy living your life in the most positive way possible… yet another lesson! Hope to see you soon : )

  • Carrie Murdoch

    You inspire me in so many ways. So happy to hear you and your family are doing well. Thanks for this wonderful update.

  • Sandy Garnett

    Great update, Chris! Thanks for sharing the hard times and the good times with all of us. You are an amazing teacher…both for your young students and for all of us.

  • Wyonne Priebe

    So good to read this. So proud of what you have accomplished and how well you are doing. I am so happy we got to connect when you were in Minnesota.
    Love you all

  • Lorrie and Gary Poteet

    Thanks for the update…You are loved