I'd never suggest that having a stroke is life's best reality check. But if you survive one - as I have - it can certainly guide your life in new directions.
This is Heart & Stroke Month, and I thought a few words might be in order to bring focus to one of these often death-dealing giants.
As background, it has been my practice for a long time to watch the Rose Bowl Parade on television on New Year's Day. An iconic thing, it has visually kicked out the previous 12 months and, with great ceremony, introduced the next 12.
I don't recall what time I went to bed on New Year's Eve 2011, but I suspect it was early. I expected the night to pass as it had for the last half century: sweet sleep and the Rose Bowl Parade when I awoke in 2012.
The night did go smoothly. The year was to begin not with the Rose Bowl Parade on television, but what was to become the most violent day of my life. Somewhere in the dawn's early light, a blood clot entered and caused the destruction of a big chunk of the right hemisphere of my brain.
I won't go into the whole stroke thing here. All I will say is the stroke I had on Jan. 1, 2012 dramatically removed me from the world as I knew it, and briefly swept me into another - an ugly adventure that was very much a trip to the "other side."
All my life, because I've often convinced myself that I'm a physical klutz, I have easily gravitated to the sidelines of sport, to the couch as a potato, believing that inaction would likely save me from all kinds of potential harm. If you're standing or sitting still, I figured, how can anything bad happen?
Not true. Along the way, I suffered a heart attack, followed years later by bypass surgery, and most recently, the stroke. Like any machinery that seizes up from lack of use, the same thing was systematically happening to me.
After a week in hospital, and some tender recovery at home, I resolved to do life differently - or in short order I'd be dead. I sought out and joined Tsawwassen's excellent Stroke Recovery Program. We religiously meet every Tuesday to rebuild our brains and our bodies and to offer encouragement to each other on the long road back. And like cuts and bruises, brains do fix themselves.
Additionally, I have joined the similarly-excellent New Day Personal Training and Fitness Centre in Tsawwassen, where three times a week, with a personal trainer, I am not only reshaping my body, but I'm radically adjusting my attitude to just about everything. Memory of the stroke is fading fast as I have become all but addicted to the exhilarating benefits of New Day's program.
Too often, as I have found out in life, we are content to sit around, never believing that "use it or lose it" really means what it says - and that there can be genuine joy, and life-saving benefits, in the absolutelyessential process of keeping fit. Don't just try it, do it!
Award-winning freelance writer Duncan Holmes has been a Tsawwassen resident for six years. He claims to be a pretty good amateur chef and his writing over the years has been mostly about food.