Confessions of the Lucky One

I survived a stroke in 1994 at age 51. The physical aspects of recuperating from that stroke were no easy task, but the mental deficits continue to be more difficult.



Survivor Joe Ganey on his recumbent trike

I am proud to call myself a stroke survivor. I survived a stroke in 1994 at age 51. The physical aspects of recuperating from that stroke were no easy task, but the mental deficits continue to be more difficult. Little did I know that my whole persona would change — I was no longer the “old Joe.” Because this drastic change meant surrendering much of my independence, it caused anger, bitterness and frustration. Learning to accept the cognitive deficit was the most difficult challenge.

For instance, before my stroke, I was in charge of our household finances. But after my stroke, I could no longer understand numbers. I have to depend on others to take care of my checkbook, to pay bills and look after finances. Surrendering this was extremely difficult, as it took a huge part of what I considered one of my major purposes. Looking back, if I had been willing to accept early on that I could no longer do numbers, it would have prevented a lot of frustration and anger.

After my stroke, I was still able to drive, which meant I could remain somewhat independent. However, I eventually lost my license because the doctors determined it was no longer safe for me to drive. I was enraged and blamed everyone else for this loss. I was unwilling to accept the loss of independence and continually tried to have my license reinstated, to no avail. Looking back, if I had accepted that situation, I could have saved myself a lot of time, money and frustration.

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Joe with PTA Brenda Sale

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is the need to slow down. Having slowed down, I can appreciate my family, realizing there is nothing more important. I was so busy before my stroke that I missed many wonderful opportunities in my children’s lives.

After my stroke I was given a poem that I have reflected on when I felt like giving up (See DON'T QUIT below). I believe it was my faith and prayers that allowed me to eliminate my denial and embrace my challenges as the “new Joe.” I still face days that are dark and lonely, but I understand that denying things will not make it better or easier. I view my stroke as a blessing in disguise, which is why I call myself the Lucky One.

Joe Ganey, Survivor
Gainesville, Virginia


DON’T QUIT by Edgar A. Guest

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, But Don’t You Quit!

Life is strange with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about.

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,

You may succeed with another blow!

Success is failure turned inside out,

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far.

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,

It’s when things seem worse,

That you MUST NOT QUIT!

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