The Moment I Knew
"When Lindsay was talking to me, I noticed that half of her face was frozen," my friend explained to the doctor. My heart sank. I knew what this meant. But a part of me couldn't believe what I was hearing. I just experienced a stroke...later to find out that it was a Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or more known as a "mini-stroke".
Here I was, a 19 year old college student with the world ahead of her. I was attending school at the University of Oregon and I had everything I could have ever dreamed of. I was in a sorority. I lived in the dorms, where I met most of my friends. I was beginning to navigate my college education. I attended football games and basketball games. I went on hikes and local coffee shops. I was in "college heaven".
My congenital heart condition caught up with me that day. Hearing the doctors explain to me what may have caused the stroke and the steps I had to take from here was surreal. I was faced with decisions that no college student should ever have to. With the help of my family, I decided that the best first step was leaving college to head back home, to San Diego.
Since I was in the middle of my spring semester, I had to "withdraw" from my classes. Leaving my transcript with "W" all over it. I felt defeated. How was I going to obtain my college degree in 4 years if I dropped out of my freshmen year of school?
This was a question I had to solve and solve quick. Once my health was managed, I enrolled at my local community college. I met with a guidance counselor right away to determine what classes I needed to take to transfer to a four-year university.
She was being honest and told me it wasn't going to be easy. Since University of Oregon was on a quarter system and the community college was on a semester system, some of my credits didn't transfer. So not only did I have "w" on my transcript, I also lost credits. But she said, it was still possible. I just needed to jam pack my class schedule and take winter and summer courses.
That is exactly what I did. I stayed focus on my goal and I completed all of the necessary coursework to transfer. In one year, I essential completed a year and a half of college. I obtained enough credits to transfer to a university and continue my education. And from there, I went on to obtain my bachelor of arts degree in communication. It took me three schools and only four years to complete my degree.
Nothing about my college experience was easy. From health setbacks to making up college credits, I was determined to persevere through my circumstance. Instead of staying defeated, I kept my eye on my goal. No matter what challenge came ahead of me those four years, I faced it head on.
As I was nearing my final semester of college, the university opened up a commencement speaker application. Anyone who was graduating that year could apply. All they would need to do is submit a speech. If the university felt your speech was compelling, they brought you in for an interview where you had to present your commencement speech. I made it to the interview process and a couple weeks later, I received the call that I was chosen to give the 2010 college graduation commencement speech.
It was an absolute honor and full circle moment for me on the day I gave my commencement speech. As I was congratulating the class of 2010, I reminded them of their persistence and perseverance that allowed them to accomplish their degree. I empowered them to continue on their journey with strength no matter the set back.
When people ask me, "how did you have the strength to thrive after your stroke?". It is a simple answer. I didn't want my stroke to define me. Through perseverance, my stroke refined who I am for the better!