baby steps to enjoying life

Sherie Holder-Olutayo,

Added 23 October 2012

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Cynthia Wilson loved life. She loved to dance and she loved the theatre so much that she had committed a good part of her life to these involvements. So imagine her surprise when in 1995 she had a massive stroke, which has forever changed her life. It wasn’t that she had high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. There was none of that, so on many levels this stroke came out of nowhere. “In fact, my blood pressure tends to be low. My doctors said it was probably stress that brought it on,” Cynthia said. “He said a moment of stress can trigger it. Back then I was in the middle of producing the play Man Talk, and that was quite a stressful experience. The director and I had a lot of differences and we were having endless arguments.” After the stroke, Cynthia was hospitalized for a while and even had to be airlifted to Venezuela. “They sent me to Caracas for an MRI; that’s where MRI patients used to go,” she revealed. “That was really an experience. The place where my husband and I went was more like a hotel; it was a lovely place. Fortunately for me, I spoke Spanish. I was surprised to know that I could still understand it with me being in that condition.” Despite having a massive stroke and knowing it would be a long road to recovery, somehow Cynthia always knew that she would survive. “I had a little word with God. I told Him that I had tried in every way to live a healthy life and eaten the way I was supposed to. I exercised more than most people because I used to be a dancer and I was very athletic,” Cynthia said. She admitted that despite seeking to keep her spirits up as she tried to rebound, depression would often get the better of her. “I got very depressed,” she said. “I must say Dr Sharon Harvey, who is a psychiatrist, helped me a lot. I went to her over a period of time.” The depression resulted from her state and her efforts to regain a sense of normalcy. “I went from somebody who was used to being in control, to someone who couldn’t control anything, not even my own body,” Cynthia said. “I couldn’t stand that. I would find my arms doing all kinds of things I didn’t tell it to do. There was nothing I could do about it, so I had to accept it.” Learning to walk proved to one of Cynthia’s most challenging moments. “I went to a kinesiologist, Dr Richard Cohen, and he told me I had to go through all the steps of walking like a baby. So I had to get on my hands and knees and walk back and forth like a baby would do. Then I had to walk and hold on to the wall like a baby and then walk on my own. The day that I walked on my own I was so happy. I hadn’t realize that walking was so difficult. It’s amazing that children can do it.” A great aspect of Cynthia’s recovery had to do with her mindset. Though she did have her challenges she was determined to get back her life. “We’re twice a child and I got back to my second childhood,” she said laughing. “But I’m good at accepting things, especially things I can’t change.” After her stroke and her recovery, Cynthia retired. “I turned to writing. I always wrote but I concentrated much more on my writing. I brought out my first book, Same Sea Another Wave, when I was 70 years old,” she said. “Then I brought out the second one the year after and the third, the year after that. Two there years ago I brought out a memoir and then later this year I’m bringing out a sequel to that memoir.” For a while after her first stroke life was going well for Cynthia. That was until 2000 when she had another stroke, this time a milder one. “I was vex, to tell you the truth,” Cynthia said. “I do everything that I’m supposed to do, so how could this happen? The doctors said once you have one stroke, you’re likely to have another. He said if you have the third, the third one takes you. But thanks be to God I haven’t had the third yet.” While Cynthia didn’t lose any mobility with that stroke, she admits that she has problems with her balance. My balance is not good at all. I go to the physiotherapist twice a week and I do a lot of balance exercises,” she said. “I tried to go back to dancing but it was so frustrating that it would send up my blood pressure. I would understand what the tutor was saying, but I just couldn’t get my body to do it. My body did whatever it liked.” After having to abandon dance, something she loved, Cynthia took up walking instead. For someone who has prided herself on taking care of what she ate and who exercised, Cynthia admitted that she was frustrated and shocked that she had not one stroke, but two. While she says she now eats whatever she wants, there is one thing that she is determined to do and that is enjoy her life. “What I would tell people is to be positive,” she said. “Enjoy your life and celebrate it.”

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