An itch on the side I can’t feel


With the hiccup of Amanda’s radiotherapy swiftly becoming a distant memory, it’s time to focus once more on her stroke recovery and reflect on the past 2 months and how, in retrospect, she has continued to progress.

Despite the longer nights and cooler mornings, Amanda’s positivity and motivation remains unrelenting. Her brain, even 2 years after her significant stroke, continues to repair and regenerate.

We were warned the radiotherapy treatment could cause fatigue and this was difficult to detect, given her ongoing stroke fatigue. But in the last two weeks, as the effects have obviously worn off she has increasingly become more chatty, more humorous, more assertive and, as noticed by several people, more cheeky.  More so than before the radiotherapy. I attribute this at least in part to her ongoing use of Voluntastrols – a natural health supplement which supports  brain function

So here is what I and others have noticed over the past 2 months;

Amanda’s sight –reading ability has improved. One of the tasks on the Constant Therapy app plays a phone message followed by a written question and 3 possible written answers. Up until now I have had to read every question aloud. I then deliberately read the three possible answers out of the sequence in which they are displayed so Amanda can get the visual clues by looking at the number of words in each answer. But now she is mostly able to read the question (or rather understand the meaning and context as she is still unable to read aloud), and select the correct answer.

The app also challenges her mathematical skills and these have also increased dramatically to the extent where her mental arithmetic is probably better than mine. This has also helped her working memory.

So for example questions like…

If Jack has 6 pens and Bob has 20 pens and he gives Jack 10 of them, how many pens does Jack have now?

..actually requires  the ability to retain a lot of information, move it around in your head, and then mentally calculate the answer –  and she can do it!

Last week she was walking along the street with her mother – in –law and asked her to speed up.

Amanda has also started to wean herself away from daytime TV by instead listening to audiobooks. Although these have been available to her for months she is now listening for several hours at a time and easily retaining the story so far from one session to the next.

I’ve noticed Amanda can focus her concentration best when there are no distractions. So quietly lying in bed, lights off is a good time to test her.

Ever since her stroke she has insisted she couldn’t remember (other than in very general terms) what she did at work, on a daily basis. This week she was musing on no longer working and I asked if she could yet remember what she actually did – and she began reeling off a detailed list of tasks for the first time in over 2 years!

Then I checked her Achilles Heel; her short term memory. So I asked her what we had eaten for dessert 2 hours earlier. Slowly we got to fruit, round, yellow, begins with ‘P’, second letter ‘E’ and that she could picture it in her head before she finally landed on peaches and ice cream.

But it didn’t stop there. She asked me why she could not recall stuff which was obviously still in her head. So I explained how the bleed had damaged the existing pathways and so her brain had to build a new way to get to the memories and that the more she practiced the more ‘well – worn’ those new pathways became. I reminded her how, if she didn’t use her app for the few days her memory started to falter.

This was such a strange conversation to have. It was almost as if her undamaged right side was self-aware in its own right and talking about how the other half couldn’t function correctly.

She also made the startling statement that she could remember the exact moment of her stroke. She remembered standing at the kitchen sink, vomiting then… nothing. That was the moment she collapsed unconscious in to the arms of the waiting paramedic.

I guess it depends on the location of the stroke, but in Amanda’s case she has proved beyond doubt she has absolutely no memory loss. They are all still in there. It’s just the path to reach them has either been destroyed, or damaged.  She continually demonstrates the ability to either repair or build new ones.

As I drifted off to sleep I could feel her fidgeting.

“What’s up?”

“I have an itch on the side I can’t feel.”

“Ok, just think about what you just said for a moment. Goodnight.”

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