When People Ask How My Life Changed After Surviving a Hemorrhagic Stroke


I am 43. I survived a hemorrhagic stroke to my right basal ganglion on June 4, 2015. I am in great shape. I do not smoke. I play rugby and eat lots of fish and do all the other crap I’m supposed to do. Tough sh*t — genetics and low good cholesterol did me in a bit. Since then I have struggled, when asked, to explain to others how my life is different. Maybe I should have been convincing them of the many ways I have remained the same.

I have always been comforted by mathematics.  They are finite and yet infinite. Intimidating, yet simple and elegant. I like to think of myself this way. Maybe my ego stayed more intact than I’d previously thought. Oh, I hope so… This prompted me to develop a simple, elegant way to explain me “after the stroke” that is void of all emotion and thus guarantees the listener will actually listen. Let’s begin with a common equation:

5+5=10

I believe this is somewhere between 2 year-old and pre-kindergarten math these days, but it illustrates my point beautifully. Most people understand this equation and concept. Most people can recite it with conviction and self-assuredness. It is easy to remember — even backwards.

I am “10.” You are “10.” The dog next door is “10,” and your ex is also “10,” unfortunately.

This is all my stroke does to 10:

2+3+5=10

That’s it! Simple. The sum of the parts is the same for me, a complete 10. The parts have changed, but 10 is no less than before, no matter how it is written. No matter how many variations are introduced.

Why?  Because an equation is not so unless it is equal. The contents on the right side must equal the sum on the left. In other words, the before must equal the after.

It might look different, but it is the same.  I may walk and speak and write and appear to be different, but inside I am the same Jill.

We are always the sum of our parts. We are always a 10.

woman smiling and looking at the camera, man with eyes closed kissing her forehead

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Stroke

To the Mom Who Just Heard the Words, 'Your Son Had a Stroke'

Dear Jamie of 2009, This afternoon you are going to get hit with news that will drop you to your knees and take your breath away. This afternoon you will find out your son, Aidan, had a stroke. You will hear those words: “Your son had a stroke.” I know you thought as long as [...]
girl wearing hat

To the People Who Think My Child Is a ‘Troublemaker'

My daughter had a stroke before she was born. Because of that, she is behind in reaching some of her milestones. She is about two years behind where she should be with her speech, but she doesn’t let her speech impairment get in her way. She’s very clever at finding ways to tell you what she wants, [...]

The Moment We Found Hope Again After My Child's Stroke

There is no memory as vivid to any parent as the day they get to meet their child for the first time. It’s the day all the anticipation comes full circle and they hear their child’s first cry into the world pierce the silence. The complications towards the end of my pregnancy made her cry [...]

When I Had to Re-Evaluate My Life After Having Strokes at 16

Just this past December, when I was 16 years old, I had multiple ischemic strokes and seizures. My brain was dying and I was losing myself. The first MRI showed that my frontal lobe was affected on both sides. After the second stroke, the next MRI showed that the affected area had grown on the [...]