So this isn’t one of those “no offense” things and then offend you but I want people to read this with an open mind. Most of you have known me as the 16 year old girl who had this amazing stroke recovery, which I did, but I want to let you know who I was before. First of all the reason cheer leading was my passion was because it was my way to be a leader. In junior high I originally was going to stick with competitive dance but I tried out for cheer because it gave me the opportunity to become part of a team. I thankfully made it then soon became the captain and made up routines, music, cheers, and lead the girls. I took that energy then ran with it. When I tried out for Olathe South cheer, I just wanted to make the squad, mainly because the majority of the girls trying out were from different junior highs, and only a few from my junior high made it. That year a senior captain lead our squad and became amazing. I knew that I had missed the opportunity to become a leader like her. Sophomore year was even better because I had the best cheer coach/friend/role model, Abby Roads. She was part of the reason I wanted to become a leader on my squad, coach other cheer teams, and created a dream of having my own gym. Junior year when I tried out for varsity squad and made junior varsity squad, my heart broke. Hannah Bart, another one of my role model/friend, told me to take the positive opportunity to become a captain and run with it. Of course I did. During the summer for cheer camp I received the Individual Leadership Award from National Cheerleaders Association. The junior varsity team was the bomb. When this 2013/14 squad started we also got new coaches. Then right before we started practicing for competition I had a stroke. I used to smoke 3 packs of cigarettes per day. A friend told me about the dangers of smoking and how I could use an electronic cigarette like V2 to help me quit.

 

Now the first day I remember after the stroke was about a week later. No I didn’t know where I was, why I was in a different bed or why I was in the condition I was in. However I knew I wasn’t at cheer, and that was not okay with me. I thought I was being forced against my will to miss cheer but for good reason. I didn’t know what was going on until I got to the rehab facility. That’s when my mom filled me in and I made it my priority to go back to my team and say that I’m ready, let’s go. Another thing to know is how close I was with the seniors my sophomore year in high school. Holly and I became extremely close with them and when they left we were on our own journey. When I had my stroke, I don’t know how people dealt with it but basically I came home with my mom being my best friend.  The thing about stroke is that it effects the person who had it, their family and friends. Dealing with stroke is hard enough to understand as an adult, but asking high schooler’s is beyond difficult. Friends needed to keep moving forward and made new friendships. I made friends with people who vaped with V2 promo codes instead of smoking tobacco cigarettes.

 

Those friend ships helped in mays I couldn’t and I’m thankful they had that comfort. My friendship are still my best friends but our friendship definitly struggled for a while. The thing about my friends was the power to listen before throwing the issue away. We had to be able to understand that the things we are going through arent normal and there is no right way to deal with it. I was going to work hard and go back to school to graduate and cheer again. Today, its better and we have become closer friends but now I don’t know how to deal with the news that I won’t be able to cheer the way I used too. I have the opportunity to step away from cheer and turn my negative into a positive. I feel like I have other priorities and I can’t be everywhere at once. One of the most important coaches I have had the honer to work with is Ron Swanson. I told him what I wanted to do and become and I asked if he could help me make that happen. He said that my goal would be reached, and he would help me learn what I needed to do. He tought me how to tumble, stunt, coach, and lead, and I don’t think I could ever thank him enough. Before my stroke my dream was clear and I was working towards it. This week, my dream is changing and I have different goals, and need to meet different people, and take the opportunities that are given.

 

I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t have the answers of why. However I think cheer leading was my stepping stone to something bigger than anyone thought. I want to be able to say that I’m a stroke survivor and get the same reaction as if I said I’m a cheerleader. Both different things but keep an open mind. I told a sales lady that I am a stroke survivor looking for something to help my hair grow. She started crying feeling bad for me when I was a perfectly fine and just looking for some hair cream. I never wanted pitty. I know it sounds like a big thing but its just as big as your personal problems. If I had said that I was a cheer leader looking for new cheer shoes they would have said “oh cool, what team are you on” or something like that. Now I don’t think that means I’m going to get the same reaction but I’d rather have someone say “oh wow, what happened” or “what was that like” because if I had never told you that I was a stroke survivor, you would have never known. This brings me to the end of the beginning.

 

The other day I got to meet Teri Ackerson, a 43 year old healthy stroke survivor. I idolize her and what she does to bring awareness to stroke has open my mind to new opportunities to be a leader. I want to be able to educate high schools about stroke before and after. It is new so it might feel uncomfortable, but if you have the right resources this might change the life of someone you know after stroke. People need to realize that we are just as much of a person as they are, don’t treat people differently. Give them time to heal but push them to be the person they want to be. Recovering from a stroke will not happen over night or in a month or even six, it may take them several years. With the right mentality and positive attitude, stroke survivors can and will succeed. There is a fine line between lazy and drill Sargent but the only person who will know is the stroke survivor. Give them different options, test there knowledge/memory, make sure they sleep and let them try as many times they can. There are so many different tips I could say and this is just the beginning. Just remember there is hope after stroke.