New Beginnings After a Stroke
For Shelagh Brennand, life was going perfectly. She and her family had migrated from England and were now happily settled on the Sunshine Coast. She had built a second career as a private investigator.
Then on a warm April day in 2013, she capped off a morning in the garden by mowing the lawn. That was enough to bring on a stroke. She was 49.
Looking back, Shelagh admits that her life is divided into two, life before the stroke and life after the stroke.
Until then, she was an active mum, dealing with the challenges of being married to a FIFO worker as well as building her new career. She was the manager of her son Patrick’s soccer team, a role that she relinquished after her stroke with some sadness.
Shelagh had helped out at many school events. She loved the socialising and the business of being part of a school community. Post-stroke, she no longer had the capacity to give so much and that disappointed her.
However, Shelagh is adamant that her post-stroke life has not been all about losses.
“In a positive way, my stroke has given me more family time. I don’t sit here and wish my old life back at all. I miss the investigation work but I know I can’t do that anymore. I spend more time having fun. I spend more time with Patrick.”
Shelagh reflects, “I think in a way, my stroke has defined me. I did have a stroke, albeit a minor stroke. I honestly think it’s made me a better person. I appreciate life more.”
A Poet Is Born
Two years on from her stroke, Shelagh Brennand has published a book of poems that she wrote during her recovery. Titled A Stroke of Poetry, the book provides a window into the daily struggles of adapting to life after a stroke or major illness.
The poem It's only oranges comes from this collection. It recounts a Saturday morning when 12 year old Patrick has a soccer game. It’s a rush, finding his boots, checking his soccer gear, cutting the oranges into quarters and driving to the game on time.
Half time comes. Tired and thirsty players tumble off the field. But Shelagh realises the oranges are still back home in the fridge. It’s too much.
“I just cried about it all the way home because from my perspective, I was letting the side down.
I was trying to do so well and coping.”
This is a poem about struggles and love. Back home, Patrick envelopes his mum in hugs and reminds her, “It’s only oranges.”
To read more about Shelagh Brennand, you can visit her website A Stroke of Poetry.