Getting a perspective on life

There is nothing like talking to other people for putting your own life into perspective, is there? As I approach the fourth anniversary of my life-changing stroke, which falls tomorrow (December 16), I could get all maudlin and start looking at all the things I have lost. I could particularly regret the loss of 16 years of my working and earning life assuming that I would, in normal circumstances, have gone on to work until I was 65.

But I won't do that. In fact, Mrs Warrior and I will be putting on our finery for a change and going out for a posh meal tomorrow evening to celebrate the fact that, as I often say, I shouldn't really be here after what's happened to me - but I am. I'm here for a reason - to educate people about stroke and the dangers of stress but also to not get down on themselves, but rather to look at the positive things in life.

That view has been reinforced by two conversations I've had this week - one online and one in person. The online discussion was with a Facebook friend in Spain who I got to know through my naturist world. I already knew that his partner had recently suffered a stroke; what I didn't realise until we talked at length this week was just how devastating that stroke has been. My swallowing function has been affected to such a degree that I know I must not swallow large pieces of food in case I choke - but this man has been left with virtually no swallowing function at all and is being fed through a tube.

In addition, around one in three people who survive a stroke have difficulty reading, writing, speaking or understanding as a result. I know I am incredibly fortunate that none of these things apply to me. But as my friend says about his partner: ''He can speak, but what comes out is just a random jumble of words'' (Speech difficulties like this are known as aphasia).

I suffered my stroke in a busy town centre and was in the hyper-acute stroke unit of my local hospital within an hour. To quote my friend again: ''Really, they have done nothing because of the language barriers. The stroke treatment has been non-existent, really; all they have done is treat infections.'' Given that it is acknowledged that stroke must be treated as quickly as possible, that's not a good situation. I am trying to offer advice to my friend from afar (and maybe it's my journalistic background, but I do seem to have learnt an awful lot about stroke over the past four years), but this case is a clear example of how fortunate I feel to have got away as lightly as I have, compared to many.

The second conversation was with a lady who has been what you might call a nodding acquaintance for years. Her son and his wife used to live near us and the young couple's small terrier and our own Rascal would stare suspiciously across the road at each other if they met while on walks.

We would always chat if we met while in town and both mother and father-in-law and son and daughter-in-law kept an eye on Mrs Warrior while I was in hospital. I could be sure that all four would ask about my wellbeing whenever we met.

Then, about a month ago, we spotted the lady sitting on her own in a cafe. This struck us as odd because they had always come across as a devoted husband and wife. But, as you do, we didn't ask her about it, nor did we when the same thing happened on a few more occasions. But this week, we spotted her again, still on her own - only this time, she came and sat at a table directly adjacent to us with what were obviously three friends.

We couldn't avoid speaking to her without appearing rude and as I still have that vital journalistic characteristic of being willing and able to talk to anyone at any time, I said 'Hello', put a friendly arm around her shoulder and asked if everything was OK.

It wasn't, of course. She told me that her husband had passed away in November and she faced her first Christmas without him. 

We offered our sympathies, listened as she told us the story (I've told the story of my father's recent passing enough times since he died in October) and she left. We don't know her name, we don't know where she lives, but when we see her in future, we will always speak to her. That's what people do. And I am so glad that I am still here to do it, four years since I nearly wasn't.