Nov 18, 2014

My PT and the Marathon, aka I Want to Be a Contender

I was watching On the Waterfront the other day when Marlon Brando laments and, dare I say, whines, "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender." 

Coulda been a contender. Huh. Brando's lines were about boxing, but my brain works funny now. I started to think about marathons (I was a runner, but never ran in any races) and that started me thinking, why not? My brain was going into hyper speed with the thought of being in a marathon and I missed the rest of the movie.

Anyway, I had a new physical therapist who used to be a fitness trainer and wasn't used to my weird questions, so I asked: "I want to be a contender," borrowing that line from Brando, "so could you train me to run in a marathon?" 

And surprisingly, she said, "Yes."

I made it clear. "Without a wheelchair, I mean." It could be my imagination, but I think she was sorry she replied so quickly.

The marathon is a running event with a distance of 26 miles and change. The Greeks had the first one back in the day when there were Olympics but no TV. 

Some runners do not participate in a marathon to be victors. Their personal time to finish the race is key, and some runners just want to finish the godforsaken race. Ten years ago, for example, the average marathon time in the U.S. for men was 4 hours, 32 minutes, 8 seconds, for women, 5 hours, 6 minutes, 8 seconds. I might do it in around 3 days, give or take. 

The PT still looked uneasy.  "I'll have to train you for a year," hoping, I think, that I would change my mind.

Of course, after her physical therapy session, I researched and found out that two weeks before the race, I'd have to load up on carbohydrates without increasing caloric intake to enable my body to store glycogen, an energy source, aided by carbohydrates, like potatoes and rice.

After the marathon, the recommendation is to eat carbohydrates for glycogen restoration and lots of protein to prevent muscle failure. So basically, fish and steak, potatoes and rice. I could live with that.

 And after the race, it is also advisable to soak your legs in cold water to get the blood flowing again.

Cold water. That was how Alfred Hitchcock got Janet Leigh to shriek in Psycho. Unbeknownst to her, he directed his assistant to turn off the hot water while she was positioned in the shower, and Janet let out a blood-curdling scream. Cold water does that. I'd do the same thing.

Staying hydrated during marathons is advisable, but over-consumption of water during marathons is not. 

"Drinking excessive amounts of fluid," one article in the New York Times said, "during a race can lead to dilution of sodium in the blood, a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia, which may result in vomiting, seizures, coma, and even death." 

I barely survived the hemorrhagic stroke, which is not a small achievement in itself, but a year of training, frigid water, and possibly death. Nah. I didn't hear enough yet to change my mind. And I didn't finish my physical therapy sessions yet. So I'll let you know.

The big question is, why would I take the time, and a risk of cold-water shock and death, to run a marathon. The hip and flip answer is, it's on my bucket list. Flying in a hot air balloon over the Loire Valley, going tandem skydiving, or riding a mechanical bull are not. They were but not now.

But when I think more deeply about it, I want to spread stroke awareness so other people affected by stroke in the world could run the race, too, and I'd collect money for every mile I ran, preferably all 26 and change miles, and donate all the proceeds to stroke research. Running a marathon would do that.

Nov 17, 2014

Interlude: My Book, "The Tales of a Stroke Patient"

My book about strokes--"The Tales of a Stroke Patient"--was published September 26, 2012, and is not only for survivors but for caregivers, family, friends, health professionals, and anybody who loves to read. The facts are still the same because when you come down to it, strokes suck!

If I could get a stroke, anybody could get a stroke. I had low cholesterol, low blood pressure, no diabetes, a non-smoker, not obese. So WHY? My book offers theories. But more than that, it shows how stroke survivors could re-gain their dignity, self-esteem, and empowerment that somehow was lost in the process. 

Here's my promotion:
“The Tales of a Stroke Patient” making lemonade from lemons….

I just wrote a book about my stroke, all from the patient's—that is, my—perspective. How about taking time to read it!

from the publisher,, 

or from Amazon,, 

or from Barnes & Noble, 

Don’t want to use a credit card? Message me at or Facebook to see how you can get a copy!

Here's the press release from the publisher:

New Book Recounts the Arduous Ordeals of a Stroke Survivor
Author Joyce Hoffman discusses the long and difficult road to rehabilitation 

According to the Center for Disease Control, cardiovascular accidents, commonly known as strokes, account for at least 128,842 deaths annually in the United States. They are not only the third leading cause of death in the nation, they are also the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. Joyce Hoffman recalls her own experience as a stroke survivor, and her struggle to recover from disability, in The Tales of a Stroke Patient.

Hoffman begins with the symptoms that preceded the sudden and unexpected cardiovascular accident that left her paralyzed and unable to speak. She then recollects her time in the hospital, the hopelessness, fear and frustration she felt, and the slow journey towards recovery she had to undertake. Hoffman recounts her difficulties and misunderstandings with the overworked staff of her rehabilitation center, the long hours of therapy she had to endure, and the progress she made despite her disabilities. In her book, Hoffman also shares important medical advice, as well as a variety of other stories from her life.

With The Tales of a Stroke Patient, Hoffman hopes to help other stroke survivors re-gain the dignity, self esteem, and empowerment that was taken from them. Her work is a sincere depiction of the disabilities and difficulties countless Americans have to live with on a daily basis, and serves to raise awareness on one of the nation’s most important health issues today.   

Nov 1, 2014

I Triple Dare You to Take The Cleveland Clinic Stroke Risk Calculator, aka When Is Health Ignorance OK?

This situation is purely hypothetical. So here goes. You don't have a crystal ball that will predict the future, and if you knew, really knew, that you had a 50/50 chance of having a serious condition, like a stroke, for example, would you live your life differently?

Think about it while I'll  have you meet Katrina Walker, a woman with a 50 percent chance of having Huntington's, a disease that could cause her death in the next 20 or 30 years. 

She's 28--active, healthy, content, working as an activity assistant at a senior center.

But Walker's mother has Huntington's disease, a degenerative disease that gives Walker a 50 percent chance of having the Huntington’s gene. Jon Fortenbury covers the story of Walker in The Atlantic when he writes, "Huntington’s causes nerve cells in the brain to break down, and typically hits between the ages of 30 and 50, starting with mood changes and depression. In its latest stage it can cause an inability to speak or make voluntary movements. Most people diagnosed with Huntington’s die from complications of the disease, such as choking and pneumonia." 

There's a test for Huntington's, but Walker won't take it, at least not at 28 years old.

"Knowing isn’t going to prevent me from having it. At this point in life, I don’t need to know," says Walker
who agrees that "knowing" would make her anxiety go through the roof. So she prefers to be, according to the myth, an ostrich, putting her head in the proverbial sand and not hearing the outcome of the test.

Fortenbury cites one study in which 15 percent of college students paid to avoid a free herpes test. 
“Unnecessary stress or anxiety” was the #1 reason many college students gave for not wanting to be tested.

There were other studies, too, that Fortenbury offers, like the 2011 study that says "knowing" is more likely to lead to divorce, early retirement, and carefree spending. 

He says, "Knowing your life expectancy is cut by 20 to 30 years is bound to cause some urgency."

For Walker, she doesn’t plan on having kids so she’s not worried about passing on the Huntington gene.

“Right now, I feel like my future is wide open and if I got tested and found out I have Huntington’s, I’d feel like, ‘Well, there’s my future, there’s my fate,’” Walker said. “Right now I have more time and freedom.”

That argument got me to thinking, as I said in the beginning on this post, if you had a test and knew for certain that you had a 50/50 chance of having a serious condition, like a stroke, would you live your life differently?

The Cleveland Clinic has developed a Stroke Risk Calculator with the caveat: "The stroke risk calculator below can be used to assess your risk of having a stroke within the next 10 years. Please note that this calculation is an estimate only - please see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis as there may be other contributing risk factors." 

To try it, if you dare, go to this link:

I achieved a total of 6 out of 27 points with a 10-Year Stroke Probability of 3%. The average 10-year stroke probability is 7.2% for women in my age group. (I am 66). 

But then again, I got a stroke because of medications:

My bottom line? With only one go-round at life, if my 10-Year Stroke Probability was 50 percent or higher, would I want to know?

It's like the country song by Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying":
I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me
When a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays
Talking 'bout the options and talking 'bout sweet times.


I asked him when it sank in
That this might really be the real end.

"How's it hit 'cha when you get that kind of news?
Man, what'd ya do?" He said,


"I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'."


And he said, "Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'."


He said, "I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn't
And I became a friend, a friend would like to have,
And all of a sudden goin' fishin' wasn't such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.


"Well I, I finally read the good book
And I took a good, long hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again.
And then

"I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'."


And he said, "Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'."

I would want to know.