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. (You will notice many typos in older posts. I intentionally never corrected them, as they helped document my cognitive abilities at various stages of recovery.)

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. Jennifer 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 wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care. At 5 years, 7 months, God clarified Jennifer's theology on healing and showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jennifer is currently writing more books and stays active on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. 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 temporary update note above!)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

My Week(end)

In reading this article (Thanksgiving TBI Wishes: Being Thankful), I was hit by how far I've come. "Some of us who have experienced a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] might wonder how it is even possible for us to be thankful for anything. The road is tough and it is painful, but we are selling ourselves short if we don’t try."

Lilla Rose

I did spend the first couple of years wondering if thankfulness, joy, fulfilment, peace, and a multitude of other positive emotions were even possible! A tough road is an understatement of a description!

I still have days that are more filled with emotional landmines than others. Reading my post-concussion MRI findings, that my brain shows "Large chronic infarcts in the left cerebellar hemisphere with significant resulting volume loss," was rather sobering. (I knew that about the strokes, but seeing it in black and white, hearing my doctor talk about resulting lost brain volume, was just hard.)

Thanksgiving week and day were filled with some tough memories since that was 5 years since my two life-saving, experimental surgeries and some rather traumatic events unfolded in the ICU in the 24 hours encompassing that Thanksgiving day (holiday hospital staffing can get "interesting" when it comes to quality of care).

But even through the dark days, the questioning of God's purpose for my life, plan of why He even still has me on this earth, I now know an underlying peace and joy I didn't know possible. I can actually find things to be thankful for. Sometimes my reasons for thanksgiving might seem odd to others, like the fact that I can again answer "no" on a health form for something like life insurance, where I'm asked if I've experienced a stroke "within the past five years."

Thursday and especially into Friday morning, I felt rather depressed. I think a lot of that was circumstantial because of memories then my body's betrayal by the end of Thursday. Circumstances are not tremendously better yet, but my attitude is, God's grace is here to remind me everything is going to be OK in His timing! That article reminded me just how far God has carried me in five years.

As for the physical aspect of the last few days, here are some Facebook conversations from Friday that share details of Thursday:
We hosted Thanksgiving here. 5 in our immediate family + both sets of our parents. Mom and I did most of the prep Wednesday, then they came over at 10 yesterday so Mom and Dad could fix the turkey and get it in the oven. We had brunch, played a couple quiet games and just relaxed until 3 when we started warming and final prep. Rick's parents got here right before 4 and we sat down to eat about 10 after. We took pictures and ate pie after all that.
I was doing great other than some serious ear pain that's been an issue for weeks (I'm having a minor surgery on Monday that should help a lot, but until then the pain is building by the hour), but when we went to clear the table, my left arm simply decided not to work at all. I nearly dropped a stoneware dish, and 30 seconds later spilled a cup, tried to upright it, then dumped it out the other side instead! After that I just sat while our moms were left with all the cleanup. I was in bed by 8 and slept for 12 hours!
When questioned (yesterday) about my "minor surgery" next Monday, I replied,
Because it really is rather minor and was just set up this week. It will be local rather than general, so I won't even be put under. We just need to slice open the ear drum again (already done this 3 times, but a basic ear tube lasts less than a year before it the membrane grows closed and pushes the tube out) white a T-tube is more extensive and will hopefully keep ear pressure equalized for 3-4 years this time.
I told a friend more this morning.
Gritting my teeth to make it to Monday's ear surgery to take pressure off TN. Was throwing up from pain by last night....Eustachian tube is still paralyzed from stroke. Every 8 or 10 months I get my tube replaced so pressure can equalize. The ear drum has healed and pushed out the tube again, so I have hundreds of pounds of negative pressure trying to pull the ear drum into the ear. This is what sets off the trigeminal nerve (TN). As soon as he cuts into the ear drum on Monday to place my next tube, I'll have immediate relief even before he gets the tube placed!
...It is what it is. Talk to me Monday night and I'll be in a better mood! LOL (Except it hurts to laugh, or blow my nose, or swallow...)
And to a friend concerned about my arm, I explained,
It's a stroke thing. My arm was totally useless at first. I now have regained pretty much all large motor function and a little fine motor function (still type with only my right hand) but my body lets me know I'm overdoing by revisiting various issues that were there constantly just after the stroke. Sometimes my left eye crosses and I get double vision. Sometimes my leg limp gets really pronounced or my leg drags. This time, the left arm decided to quit then get really painful. Today has been much better with the arm, but my ear is still so very painful I'm fighting throwing up. It's a grumbly kind of day where the chiropractor who caused my strokes is getting prayed for a lot (as in pray for your enemies).
Lilla Rose
I've spent most of today flat in bed (ear seems happiest that way) helping customers navigate our Black Friday / Small Business Saturday / Cyber Monday biggest sale of the year at Lilla Rose.

Happy 74th birthday to my Daddy today! I am very thankful to have both of my parents and both of my husband's parents! It was very special to have them all here on Thursday.

The article I opened with, written specifically from the aspect of brain injury, God used to show me a marker of how far He has healed my thought patterns. However, the article was missing the profound hope of Jesus. Hallmark Movie Holidays...Or Real World Reality?, covering a host of chronic health needs (or even everyday stresses everyone can face) fills in the hope the first article skipped over.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV

Thursday, November 24, 2016


5 years ago today, I was in back-to-back emergency surgeries.

Today, my mom and I are making an entire Thanksgiving meal for nine, my immediate family, my parents, and in-laws! Wow! God's grace.

I'm awaiting another in=office ear surgery on Monday, a step up from the tubes I've had three times, but still local anesthetic a nd don't have to be put under. That left eustation tube continues to remain paralyzed and unable to equalize pressure within the ear, creating significant negative pressure (like 200 pounds) and pain! It will be such a relief to get that addressed again. All things considered, what a mild issue to be facing Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Two Months of Ear Infection

Remember the concussion I gave myself two months back? Within a few days of that head hit, my left (more stroked) ear started burning and draining with a deep maddening itch and constant feeling of swollenness.
This has continued, to greater or lesser degrees, for two months now. The bug I fought for the past couple weeks really upped the ante on ear/jaw pain.

Monday, my doctor confirmed that the ear is still infected, but since I just finished last week's course of antibiotics, there's nothing else we should do right now but hot pack it. "If you could stand on your head, it would really help drain the ear since the infection seems all to have moved down to that lower half of the membrane, below your ear tube."

Um. Thanks?

The ear pain is getting intense. It hurts to hiccup. It hurts to burp. It hurts to blow my nose. Let's not even talk about sneezing! I'm walking around with a hot pack attached by a headband to be held constantly on the ear.

I just put in a call to my ENT to see him first thing Monday morning (since I don't have a ride to get in any sooner).

Meanwhile, Kathy and I finished winterizing my rose garden this morning. November 16 and I still had eight new rose buds and dozens of open blossoms!)

It started snowing this afternoon. Whew. We were JUST in time!

Those little white flecks on the black garden chair are snow flakes!

Oh, and I've freaked a few friends in the last 24 hours by saying, "You know that book manuscript I've been working on for the past five years? I decided to scrap it and start from scratch!"

As has been repeated pointed out, I'm not truly scrapping it and starting completely over. I am simply undertaking a massive restructuring of the book while maintaining the integrity of most book content. Still, it's a huge job!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lord, You Own Me

Two alternative posts have been cycling over and over in my mind as I've pondered the direction of my next entry.

The first post idea was going to be about how I went on a left-over trick-or-treating sugar binge a week ago Tuesday and was sick (cough, sluggish, fever, sore throat) by Wednesday afternoon, then rallied dramatically on Thursday afternoon after realizing our fire evacuation standby a few weeks ago had left my antiviral medication I take twice daily (for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) out of my prescription lineup for several days.

I set my pills up 2 weeks at a time and since that bottle had been set to evacuate, it did not make it back into my mix of bottles and I did not notice I was missing it when I lined up all my other bottles.) Getting back onto that drug literally reversed my initial cold symptoms from no voice and a fever to normal temp and strong voice in just two hours!

Since I've already covered this situation in more detail, that would seem to make a rather redundant posting topic were if  not for my confirmation of sugar's detrimental impact on the immune system! I sugar-binged AGAIN on Saturday and Sunday, and by Monday was on antibiotics. I've fought the urge for sugar ever since (with a throat this sore, surely getting into those Gobstoppers would be a good thing to suck on!) and my body has finally taken a turn towards healing again. I am certainly not "well" yet, my hubby is still sleeping in another room in efforts to keep him fit for bread winning, but I am undoubtedly improving!

The additional fact that has made this bug noteworthy enough to blog is the viciousness.  I only coughed a few times through the day Sunday. Sunday night I started fighting a fever and was coughing harder Monday. Since my daughter (who had been down in bed for a week at that point) was getting antibiotics and I was copying her cough, I started antibiotics on Monday afternoon too. Within a few hours, I was too weary to stand. I was asleep by 8, Monday night. Other than a few brief wakeups (like taking meds, or the phone call that our high school senior was leaving school early because he now was sick too), I slept straight through for nearly 36 hours, finally waking up Wednesday morning! (The first news to meet me, after sleeping through my weekly prayer day, my hubby's birthday, and elections, was the stunning news that God was not placing us on quite such a slippery slope of leadership as I knew our nation deserves.)

Yesterday I didn't sleep much during the day, but was down solidly in bed all day and slept most of last night, save the semi-dream/sleep waling incident at 1:04 this morning when I walked into the living room, flipped on the light and was coming to wake my husband up for today's work! I was sure when I left our bedroom the alarm clock read 5:44, am started myself "awake" to find the clock out here read 1:04. That was a rude awakening for me. But thankfully Rick slept right through my light flipping and didn't even know of my nighttime adventure until I told him this morning.

Talking in my sleep, I do that often enough, throughout my whole life.

Vivid dream? Yes, that describes me too.

Walking in my sleep. Hasn't happened for years.

And what an odd semi-coherent, purposeful, reasonable mission to attempt, just over 4 1/2 hours too early!

The second option was a whiny post about how the holiday season seems to magnify my limitations, my "can'ts," my exclusions.

While there are some funny sides to my medical misadventures, there are also some deeply painful areas.

At this point I can't be anywhere that has loud music (sometimes that includes my own living room when a commercial booms on the television for all of 30 seconds and my family scrambles to see who can turn off the t.v. and keep mom from getting sick fastest!), flashing lights (Christmas parties around here seem heavily laden with disco balls, strobe light, or at least hand-held flashing toys), or latex (balloons, rubber tires in a store, latex gloves even at the doctor's office), I cannot eat anything containing MSG, wheat, or shellfish (ship and crab were my favorites - "thank you" iodine overload from all that stroke testing). Too hot and I "wilt." Too cold (oh like 60 or lower) and my muscles grow painful and tight.

Last Christmas I think there were something like seven different events I wanted to attend but had to stay home from because of all my requirements. This wouldn't hurt my home-body, introvert husband to not be able to go, but often he, who spends the vast majority of each day interacting with people at work, has to go to an event anyway, while me, the people-person, extrovert, who typically sees anyone other than family only for church, gym/therapy/doctors, Bible study, and grocery shopping with my mom, needs to stay home.

I start in asking God exactly why I'm here when my life is so oddly limited. After two or three days of wrestling with this after another party invitation I may need to decline due to my limitations, today a catchy "earworm" provided the answer.

The television commercial is for some brand of car, I think. The opening scene is a head chef dumping the food his jr. chef has obviously poured her heart into. She flees in her car as the words, "You don't own me!" blare. Over the 30 seconds, a few stories unfold. I think, in the end, our original jr. chef opens her own food truck. It is a fast-fast commercial touting the concept of freedom, of having thing exactly my own way and not letting others script my life. But the most catchy part is that repetitive song!

As I was considering my "poor me" list of isolation, that song played in my head, this time with the altered words, "Lord, You own me!" That's the whole point. I do not need to understand. He has me here, so His parameters will accomplish all He has me here to accomplish. With this knowledge, I don't need to let myself grieve each loss so!

Monday, November 7, 2016


So, I felt like I was getting sick Wednesday afternoon.

Was absolutely sick on Thursday, but by mid afternoon my fever broke, my voice returned and I felt fine!

I did therapy Friday and was unusually dizzy during gravitational fluxes with the lower gravity treadmill, but otherwise was fine. Drinking a large container of water in the car ride home seemed to even compensate there.

Saturday, I worked a craft fair (more on that in a minute!), gone from home 8am to 6:30pm, then came home and fixed dinner and cleaned the kitchen. It was a fantastic day. I had energy, a strong voice, and I managed 6 straight hours on my feet without payback pain. In fact, my leg was totally pain free in bed that night for the very first time since the strokes!

Yesterday, I coughed a few times during church.

Today, I'm feverish again, achy, coughing like crazy and congested.

Taking my daughter (who has been down hard in bed for nearly a week of hard coughing and fever) to the doctor this morning, we are now both on antibiotics. It's like my body thought it could fight this thing off, but couldn't quite. Since this is round two in less than a week, it seems there is an underlying infection hiding out that doesn't want to let go.

Sadly, I think I got my hubby sick during those days I told him I was "all better." He has antibiotics awaiting him when he comes home from work today. Happy birthday to him? We hope to head his off at the pass before it even has a chance to settle in!

As for Saturday's craft fair, remember how I was feeling sorry for myself that my Lilla Rose kick off did not go well. Saturday made up for that. It was a fantastic day, I had good sales, turned a profit beyond inventory and merchandise costs, got a little money tucked about for Mount Hermon, and simply had a blast!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

When A Virus Mimics Brain Injury

I'm sick.

I know this conclusively for three reasons:

1. I started running a fever in the night.

2. My throat is very raw and sore today, I'm loosing my voice, when neither of these had been an issue in many months.

3. The gland behind my left (more stroked) ear, the gland that is always the first red flag of illness ever since the strokes, but has been continuously inflamed and painful ever since my concussion, has been extra swollen/sore/grumpy the last few days. (I'm used to the fact that my ear hurts and madly itches and feels clogged all the time though, so I'm accustomed to trying to tune out these sensations.)

In looking back (hindsight always being clearer!), I've perhaps been fighting this for as long as since last Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday...

On Saturday morning, Rick and I went out to early voting. Then he surprised me with a date, just him and me at the ice cream parlor! I can't think of any symptoms then, but maybe one of those places is when I got exposed?

By Sunday morning, I was COLD and my muscles were cramping, as has happened every single fall since the strokes, as weather changes. My body simply does not do well in the cold. My muscles don't function smoothly and my pain levels skyrocket. I wore long pants, tall boots, a thick shirt, 2 shirts, my winter coat, and gloves INSIDE all through the church service on Sunday morning. I was also drinking hot tea the whole time. I was so exhausted my eyes kept crossing into double vision through the entire sermon. Crazy stroke thing, I figured. And maybe it was???

Monday my muscles were still spazzed and were tight enough I could attempt no running in the AlterG at therapy. (One fascinating discovery via the AlterG cameras is that, in walking backwards, as my right leg stretches toward the front, the ankle automatically flexes and the toes raise upward automatically. I can hardly KEEP my toes flat on the dreadmill even if I really try! When my left leg rides forward, there is absolutely no movement of my ankle or toes, just a total flat ride until I lift the leg off the treadmill. I can now visually see where I deep to intentionally work on flexing that ankle and lifting my toes with each step. Fascinating!)

Fashionable AlterG attire!
Monday night, I spend sitting by the front door and handing out candy and cup-noodles (a happy accidental new accidental family tradition I'll share more about on my InfertilityMom blog) and FREEZING! I stayed inside but bundled up in fuzzy socks and my winter coat.

Yesterday was a "Kathy Day" so Kathy and I spent a few hours out working on my rose garden, bedding it down for winter. The last hour we were out there, my arms were so heavy and uncoordinated I could hardly manage the lopping sheers. (Kathy also witnessed a pretty decent near fall earlier in the morning, but I was still chalking my balance issues to being "just the strokes".)

About that time, my Dad delivered my daughter (13), home from school with a fever, headache, sore throat, congestion, croupy cough, and several near fainting spells throughout the morning.

My girl.

By the time Kathy and I came inside for lunch, my arms were so clumsy, I could hardly unplug a plug from an electrical outlet (with my GOOD arm!), took multiple attempts before I managed!

After Kathy left, I went to bed and slept hard for over an hour, getting up only because my boys were coming home from school. Our girl slept almost straight through from noon yesterday until early this morning, calling me to her room once due to hallucinations, and getting up about 3 or 4 times for drinks or to take baths. She's obviously still home from school today!

Our guys. :)

In the night last night, I realized I was pretty feverish. Even by the early hours of this morning, I could pretty much chalk every virus symptom (but the new fever) off to my body's goofy "normal" stroke reactions. When my throat was sore this morning and the tiniest bits of cough and congestion (nothing like hers yet!) started, I realized that I'm actually sick. I wonder, how many warning signs have actually been there, and for how long, that I totally ignored because this is my normal???

Please pray for the rest of our family to stay healthy!

I'm also scheduled to sell hair clips at a craft show on Saturday, have already invested some good time and money in preparing. This was to have been a post-stroke first. I would be thrilled if God still allows me to do this!