Journal entry by Diana Hoffman

I called and spoke to Tom again last night, his speech progress is downright amazing! I am so proud of his efforts!

I also received a call from Elizabeth at the Neuro Rehab facility. She wanted to introduce herself to me and find out a little about Tom. We talked about 1/2 hour just about Tom and his likes, hobbies and friends. I told her how important Tom's support system has been to him and how I thought is was a component in his recovery thus far. She will be visiting Tom sometime this week to meet and talk to him herself.

I am so glad for all his friends and angels that are supporting Tom with visits, good thoughts and prayers, he is grateful and needs all the support we can give him.


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Journal entry by Carol McGuire

Just caught Tom this afternoon doing his walking therapy at Encompass. He walked on the therapy treadmill a new milestone of 338 feet as well as doing 10 squats. I read poetry from his website and enjoyed Rumi, Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver poetry. We even found one by Tom Spencer, himself, called Walls Left Unattended. He enjoyed his chat with Diana and finished up with a kiss for “Banana”! Tom even made sure that I didn’t forget his laundry before I left.

Journal entry by Diana Hoffman

On a whim, I just called Tom. It is my understanding that the patients are back in their rooms at about I took a chance that someone might be with him and we could facetime. No one was there, however Tom answered the phone and we talked for 7 minutes and 48 seconds!!! We had a conversation. He wants to know if I am coming back soon and I told him I am working on it. I asked him if he had changed my nickname from Diana Banana to Diana G** dam it? He just laughed! I want to say it was the most encouraging conversation I had with him since 9/2/2019. He is worried about where he is going to stay next and I told him we were all working on that. I also informed him of all of the well wishers, and prayers and good vibrations he is getting from all over Austin, Texas and the world and he said to say THANK YOU!

Thank you from me.

Diana Spencer Hoffman

Journal entry by Diana Hoffman

Thank you Sean, 

I did not realize Tom had moved South of the River. Your email saved me from driving across town to the old location. I went to visit Sunday and was impressed with the rehab facility. Hopefully it will  be able to support big progress with Tom’s recovery. 
Tom’s speech has gotten better, but I struggled to understand him. He tried writing, but that was a challenge too. In his frustration, his cuss words were the most perfectly annunciated, which made us both laugh. 
Susan Abrams

Journal entry by Marianne Rochelle

I don’t take many selfies (hence I’m not very good at it), but Tom is looking good and improving each week.  I brought him an art book today and he can use his left hand to flip through the pages.  His smile is almost as big as his heart.  

Journal entry by Marianne Rochelle

I saw this in a comment to an earlier post and wanted to post as a journal entry for all to see more easily...

Sean Steele|Nov 9, 2019
I sent the following out using the mass email addresses. If you read that, no reason to read this. I just noticed some people on here that weren't in the address bar of the email. I think that the email may be getting to more people. sps

Kate and I went to see Tom at the Encompass Rehab facility at 330 Ben White on Thursday. It was my first visit to Tom, and it was good to see Mr. Resilience. We stopped by at lunch time per the advice given on the CareBridge site. I hadn't been viewing that journal, and I didn't know Tom had moved. I wonder if there has been a bit of breakdown in communication, but maybe it's just my own typical negligence. I chose email in case some others feel out of the loop.

Tom was tired from the morning routine and about to restart therapy at 1pm. Kate is better at understanding Tom's intent when he communicates than I am. I believe he indicated that he wasn't seeing many people since the move. On CareBridge there are a few lovely posts and a request for friendly help in this mornings this weekend.

The facility is very nice and Tom responded very positively when asked about the staff. He rolled his eyes and grunted when asked about the difficulty of his regimen. I complimented his toughness and resilience, and he had a similar response to that. He smiled and waved in modesty when I, with great resentment, had to admit that he is my better as a man.

Having not seen him often, I can't make comparisons. He is, of course, dealing with about the most daunting course for recovery that I can imagine. I would surely have lost heart long ago in his position. I don't know if he was just tired or if I am just off in my judgment about what he is conveying, but I got the impression that Tom may be struggling. I hope Kate adds her opinion to this note as she has seen Tom more often and was, as I mentioned, better at interpreting Tom's verbal communication.

Marianne on the CareBridge site says that visits are difficult to schedule because of the extensive work Tom is doing during the day. She says that all patients are in their rooms and noon and 430pm for meals, so that may be your best shot. I think he would like to see his friends. I'll make an effort to go more often.

Just to acknowledge the situation, I remarked about how frustrated he must be as an articulate man having to fight so hard to get an idea across. Again, the roll of the eyes and shake of his head in agreement.

I'm not providing as much insight as I wish I could. I just try to report what I see and hear.

A visit with Tom is at once inspiring and demoralizing. He strives on as he has done with other obstacles. He is my better, and I like having a friend that I can say that about. He improves the people around him. The demoralizing part is that fate has put him here with no sure path out. One moment he's dining with a friend; the next moment he's down on the floor as though struck by lightning. Such a stunning change in just a few seconds.

We got a few smiles in our short visit. I shall try to do more of that in the days to come.

Best wishes to all and thanks for all the reports over the weeks,

Journal entry by Marianne Rochelle

Hi all,
Tom's friend Jay has been doing acupuncture on Tom and is seeing great results.  He and May Latson will work together to do acupuncture for Tom in the future. But for this weekend, May will not be able to come since she will have a weekend meditation trip (and there could be other times in the month ahead where she needs someone to cover for her).
When Tom was in St. David, many times, when Jay did acupuncture, he asked nurses to help him. In Brookdale, he had plenty time, and did acupuncture by himself. Now it will be a long trip to go to Ben White, so he needs help again. Luckily, May will work together with him in the future. But this weekend, May will not be able to help him.
If anyone can meet Jay to help him by visiting Tom this weekend on Sat and Sun at the following times when he does acupuncture for Tom, that would be great:
Saturday: around 9-10 am
Sunday: 8:30-9:30 am

With gratitude,

Journal entry by Marianne Rochelle

     Encompass is at 330 West Ben White Blvd - it’s between Congress Avenue and South First Street, on the North side of Ben White (next to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store).  It is a beautiful place.  We met one of Tom’s nurses and an Internist.  There are many more on his team who will be there tomorrow (on weekdays).  It was a bit confusing to me what the schedule will be for him - there are therapies in the morning and afternoon, but I don’t know if that really means he isn’t in his room during both of those times.  It was clear that all patients are in their rooms at noon and after 4:30 pm, so those are definitely good times to visit.  Otherwise, I’m not as certain about his availability to be with visitors.  Weekends are good, as patients only have therapy once on the weekend.  
     Thanks to a tip from Sara Hickman who visited yesterday, Sandi and I were able to wheel Tom downstairs and go outside to a lovely courtyard they have.  They have 2 small garden areas with herbs and flowers.  As you might imagine, this made Tom very happy.  To get to the garden, we wheeled through the therapy rooms and they look terrific.  There is also an indoor pool, for aqua therapy.  
     Tom’s verbal skills are improving, and I found it helpful to be there with Sandi, and between the two of us, we could piece together some things he was trying to say.  He is able to use his left hand to exercise his right hand and arm.  We are inspired by Tom’s commitment to do the work and he’s ready to have more physical therapy.  It’s been 2 months since Tom’s stroke and he has made a lot of progress, and he has a long way to go.  Our hope is that Tom gets to stay at Encompass for as long as it takes to recover.  
Marianne and Sandi

P.S. We hope you will visit Tom - he enjoys seeing pictures on your phone or iPad.  It might be helpful to have a list of few restaurants nearby, that you can go to after you visit, while you wait for traffic to dissipate before heading home!!!  Here are a few I can think of....Cane Rosso (next to Tony Burger Center), Longhorn Steakhouse, B.J.’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Hyde Park Bar & Grill (Westgate shopping center in the same parking lot as Central Market South), Central Market South Cafe, Pinthouse Pizza, Red’s Porch, The Bistro at Nordstrom’s in Barton Creek Mall, etc.

Journal entry by Diana Hoffman
Tom’s Story

Site created on October 2, 2019


Last week when I was in Austin, several words stood out in many of the conversations that I had… Icon. Treasure. Institution. Gift. 

Words that were used to describe my brother Tom Spencer. 

Sure, I could elaborate on the many places that through his efforts and leadership made Austin a better place to live, however I am going to take another route. 

When JFK was assassinated, Tom, a grade school kid, wept on the bus. He already at a young age had a sense of the world and how that charismatic man had made the world a better place. 

That desire to make the world a better place is something that Tom did in many little ways, not just on the public stage.

Our younger brother, Jeff, would have said Tom was a champion. Not just a hero in all their stories but someone who literally took his hand and walked him through scary places. Tom did that for the last time when Jeff died of cancer. 

Tom was an exasperation to me. He was an unwelcome intruder of my perfect world when he was born. He teased me, taunted me, fought with me and finally somewhere along the line we became friends. He was a treasure that I had at last found and my gift.

Last month Tom suffered a massive stoke. The articulate man that we all knew is silenced for a while.
He is struggling to regain the ability to express himself and let the world know that he is still here….

He is here and he needs your good will, kindness, prayers and what ever you call it to come back.

Here at Caring Bridge is a place where we can all find ways to help Tom return to self and to all of us.

Thank you,
Diana Hoffman (Tom's sister)