Update: The In Darkness Sing blog at JenniferSaake is experiencing prolonged technical issues, so I'm temporarily posting back here on my old Stroke of Grace blog.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder, Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes via vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office, including brain stem and cerebellum bleeds, in Oct. 2011. Jenni remained hospitalized for nearly 2 months and was not expected to live (near death experience) nor recover, but if she even survived, she was slated to live out her days in a nursing home or, best case, to maybe come home but wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care. At 5 years, 7 months God showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jennifer is currently writing more books and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Stroke of Grace became In Darkness Sing in early 2018 and has moved, along with all five of Jennifer's active blogs, to one location at JenniferSaake.com. (Please see above temporary update note above!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Another Month Makes 37

Tomorrow will be three years to the day since a double surgery on Thanksgiving morning was needed to save my life and prevent further stoking. Mixed emotions as I contemplate and remember. Actually, I keep trying to push this little piece of personal Thanksgiving history from my mind all together, yet it keeps moving to the forefront of my thoughts. Unhappy memories, especially of the nightmarish night in ICU after the two surgeries.

I planned to post this 37 month update last night as it was my actual month-o-versary. After several days on the road, I just didn't have it in me. I was asleep by 6:30 the first night, 7:30 the next, stayed up until 9:30 or 10 the third night (because we were out to dinner with extended family), was asleep by 5:30 Monday night, then actually managed to stay up until 8 last night, likely because I had taken a long nap in the car on the ride home. We had a fantastic trip, but it feels so very good to be home. I am thankful for family memories made and thankful to be back in our own house!

Today, I will start with a very happy birthday wish for my Daddy. Ralph Camp turns 72 today.
Two of my favorite people, my Dad and youngest son. <3
Tablescape from my 3-year celebration of cheating death day, last month.
(And I planned, ordered, made or designed this all by myself! Thanks to Kathy and Princess R, thank you for helping me get this all out.)


Saturday morning we drove the 5 hours to the San Francisco Exploratorium (hand's on science museum), ate yummy sea food on Pier 39,


on Sunday, went to The Charles Dickens Fair (amazing, Victorian era "London" recreated in detail, hundreds of fully costumed and integrated cast members to present full-immersion experience),




on Monday, toured Facebook Headquarters - Thank you Nancy! - (I had to sign a non-disclosure contract to enter campus, so can't go into detail, but my 8-year-old describes the "main street" as "Disneyland with screens" - impressive!) and drove through Google Headquarters (but had to rush my family out quickly due to medical issues on my end).  

I don't even drink coffee, but this was cute. :)
Tuesday was involved with a medical aspect (that prompted the trip to begin with) and long drive home. (More family stress there, that I am not prepared to publicly unpack at this time, but God knows the details and prayers are appreciated.) We had good weather for the return trip as well, and stopped at Penera for yummy lunch on the way back home. I've been virtually grain-free for several weeks now and splurged on an actual sandwich - I must say it tasted SO good! Overall, it was an outstanding long weekend!

Got Spoons?
Display at Exploritorium. Been my chronic illness friends will get the joke. ;)
Our trip started off with God's gift of encouragement as we left Reno under a beautiful rainbow arch. The rain was really bad over the mountain pass and exhausting driving for my hubby. Though we, and cars around us, did hydroplane a few times, we are thankful for no snow on the roads yet!


We swam in the hotel pool and the hotel itself was a total gift from God, the first floor being a giant arboretum, surrounded by 10 stories pf balconies, glass elevators, and lush greenery cascading and growing everywhere. For only $20 more (and a half hour closer to destinations) than the least expensive lodging we could find, our family enjoyed complimentary made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, bacon, pancakes and pastries every morning (feeding a teen who enjoyed loaded 3-egg omelets, 7 pancakes, and plates full of meats, fruits, and pastries even single morning, we feel we made the most cost effective choice anyway!) while sitting on patios surrounding the quaint arched bridge and koi pond that took up much of the lower level of the hotel. Thank you, Rick and God for providing and arranging this special gift!


And now, part 2 of Friday's post:

They say "diet and exercise" will help you loose weight, right? For 8 weeks, I was grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and exercising faithfully. True, I didn't gain any more, so it did "control" weight gain. But I only lost a discouraging total of 1/2 pound over 2 months! For a while there I was chalking up gain or slow loss to the whole "muscle weighs more than fat" idea and convincing myself that I still had much muscle to rehab after so much loss of function and muscle atrophy. But after 3 years of therapy and rehabilitation, I must say I am "firmer" than I have ever been, yet still  have stubborn rolls I can't jiggle off. So I think weight issues now are more about loosing fat than regaining muscle, if I'm totally honest with myself.

Last Friday started off on a high note since those unmovable scales finally recorded 1 1/2 pounds of loss over ONE week's time (after only 1/2 pound over the prior 8 weeks)!!! Maybe the difference had only to do with how much liquid I had consumed that morning or some other fluke like that, but I must say it felt good to keep bumping the scale slide down and down by those 1/4 pound measurements! I hesitate to see what it will do after travel (Cortisol my body produces under stress, even "good stress" is never good for my weight, plus my diet wasn't the greatest on the trip, today is my Dad's birthday, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I will not have water therapy this Friday), but at least for a few days I could enjoy the thought that I was loosing finally.

I am down between 25-30 pounds from my post-stroke high, so weight IS coming off, but when you consider the nearly 2 1/2 years of aggressive effort that has gone into this loss, the process is agonizingly SLOW. I still have over 20 pounds to go to be back to my pre-stroke healthy goal weight. While I had lost nearly another 20 beyond that in the hospital (results of muscle atrophy and feeding tube, then swallowing issues and a soft food diet, combined with the intensely high caloric demands of initial recovery from brain injury, 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day, I once read!), that I do not care to loose again, the additional post-stroke gain is particularly discouraging as I had just worked for a year and lost about 40 pounds, purchasing a new jacket in celebration of my accomplished goal, days before landing in the hospital. I have yet to fit into that jacket since the strokes, first because I was unhealthfully skinny, now because I'm too "fluffy". Some day...

The excitement over scale reading was rather short-lived. When I went into the pool, I learned our teacher was out as her son had broken his arm. Our substitute was the water Zumba teacher. I spent the 10 minutes before class working out with the pool noodle, doing some of the exercises I find most helpful but we would not be doing in a Zumba class. Then we got started. I felt slow, uncoordinated and terribly inept. When the class did repetitions of movements, I would often only get one, two, or if I was doing really well, maybe three, movement repetitions out while the class did ten! I very quickly learned that while my brain now knows quite a selection of standard aerobics moves, give me new movements, especially when stressing speed over precision, and I'm just a mess.

I wanted to cry (but thanks to the strokes, that part of my brain is broken too!) and felt so overwhelmed, discouraged and out of my element. Even without getting many repititions of most movement, I often missed 3 or 4 kinds of actions all together, before simply by-passing to try to get back in sync with the class. I was hugging the pool wall and felt every bit as discouraged as when I first started water aerobics at all.

The good news is that I have, with time, become fairly proficient at aerobics, so consistency does eventually pay off. The discouragement comes from thinking I had gotten pretty good at all in-water movements and realizing that new areas of skill will require the months and years of new brain training to even hope to keep up on the most basic levels.

After half an hour of frustration, I dropped following along with the class and simply did my own thing for the next 10 minutes. Then it occurred to me, "I don't have to do this!" When I was struggling to re-learn basic survival skills, if I was to ever obtain any quality of life, I truly had no option but to push forward, no matter how hard or frustrating a situation seemed to be. In doing Zumba over standard areobics, it was very empowering to realize I actually had a choice. If I was in would-be tears of frustration, it was legitimate to say, "I don't like this. I'm not having any fun. I'm stressed. I see no benefit." and walk away! I got out of the pool 20 minutes early and enjoyed an extra-long shower afterward.

I came home just before noon and knew I needed to have everything packed for our trip and ready to go when Rick got home from work, as we already had an all-evening commitment across town, then would need to be out the door by 7 on Saturday morning. (Thanks to our Sunday School class for last Friday's Guess Who? dinner. We had a blast and feel like we got to know our small group so much better.) First goal was to clean all the garbage out of our van. Because the van was parked on the incline of our driveway, the interior lines were telling my brain, visually, that "up" was one direction, while gravity insisted it was another. The "20-minute-job" took me close to two hours and I landed in some "interesting" positions several times. I did so much better than I had when I attempted to get something out of the very back seat a year and a half ago, but I'm so glad I didn't have an audiance as I'm sure I had to be pretty funny to watch! 

I was really off balance stepping out of the van and very, very thankful that I neither fell nor broke a leg from stepping down so "gracefully", Getting down onto the driveway to text car tire size to my husband (so he could confirm we had the right size of chains before the trip - thank you for taking care of us, Rick!) was pretty funny too. I was stuck down on the ground for so long I really was becoming afraid Rick would still find me there, luggage yet unpacked, when he got home from work. I didn't think to use my cell phone to call my parents for help and I didn't want to use the emergency call button just to tell the ambulance driver, "I'm fine, not hurt, didn't even fall, just can't get myself back up!" It took me from Friday afternoon until tonight to realize I had my phone with me the whole time!

The lesson learned on Friday is that often the "little thing" are far from little, be they fractions of pounds, style of exercise, tears, freedom to make choices, gravity, birthdays, weather, or friendships. I am so very thankful for each of my family members and for YOU, my friends. Thank you for walking this journey with me.

Don't miss my drawing for a few book over at InfertilityMom. Low entries, so your odds of winning are great!


We [League for Chiropractic National Safety (LCNS)] need at least 1,000, preferably many thousand signatures, prior to January, to have the slightest chance of making a legal difference. We have been trying to gather signatures for several months, but as of this posting, have less than 100 signatures to send to the representative, Jim Davis, we hope will take our mandatory reporting bill proposal to lawmakers early in 2015. Folks are great about giving their verbal support once they understand the concerns, but getting names on paper seems to be our glitch. Chiropractic stroke is NOT "rare," just dreadfully under-reported. Please sign this petition, SHARE everywhere and help us get accurate statistics reported! Thank you! 

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!