Tanya Spencer is a loving grandmother who struggled to connect with the person she previously was after having multiple strokes in 2021 at 58-years-old.
“I had three strokes before anyone realised I was stroking. I wasn’t having classic symptoms. It happened a few times where I would feel really off, my vision would go funny, or I would fall,” said Tanya.
“I had a pounding headache and every time I went back to the doctor. The doctor said it was just side effects of the nerve blocker medication they had put me on. Luckily, after the third time I was booked for an MRI.”
Life before brain injury
Tanya was a volunteer for 16 years as an ambulance officer in Perth. She has spent the last 9 years in Broome WA working as a life coach. Tanya was a lover of adventure and warm weather, living six months in Broome and six months in Perth for nine years.
“I worked as a life coach teaching people to live the dream because that’s exactly what I had created for myself. I would chase the sun and warm weather. I was a wanderer,” said Tanya.
“Being on the road and travelling all the time made it harder when they took away my license for two years after my strokes. It took away my independence. I had 50% vision loss in both eyes, which is called homonymous hemianopia.”
“I used to thrive, and I felt like I was no longer thriving. I would cry a lot and it was something I had no control over. I knew it wasn’t depression, I was just pining for my old life back.”
“Now, I’m happy to say, I’ve just got enough vision back to be able to drive.”
The invisible symptoms
Before her injury, Tanya was always happy and compassionate. After the strokes, Tanya battled with feelings of disconnection as she felt removed from who she once was.
“I wasn’t coping with the short-term memory loss. The fatigue was huge and constant. I was angry, sad, struggling with money and to accept the toll of all my symptoms.”
“Being told I would never be able to drive again was the hardest thing I’d ever had to deal with, but I was not going to believe it. My determination to work on myself, mind, body, and health was all I could (and still do) focus on. I have learnt to listen, really listen to my body.”
“People saying that I looked so normal would hurt me deeply. It was one of the hardest things I have had to deal with in my life. Going from being a compassionate person to not being compassionate about anything was huge for me!
“I didn’t want to deal with other people. Watching others still living their lives with nothing changing for them was a huge one. I was sad with this new life I was living, sad because it just wasn’t me.”
“It took my daughter being a bit harsh with me that woke me up. Although I was dealing with a lot, I realised so were my family, my kids and my grandkids. It hurt them to see how much it changed their mum, their grandmother into this person they couldn’t understand. They knew nothing about what a brain injury was.”
A new chapter
Tanya’s experience inspired her to write a children’s book titled ‘Nanny’s had a Stroke’ to help kids understand how a brain injury affects their parent or grandparent.
“There’s a lot of kids out there that just get told that that their family members have had a stroke or have a brain injury. Yet, kids don’t have any understanding on what it, what it actually means, and what limits it put on people.”
Tanya’s dream now is to be a Support Worker and mentor for other stroke survivors. Tanya volunteers her time to mentor and support others dealing with the life challenging event that is a brain injury and their families.
“I am in the process of writing another book for anyone who wants to move their life forward and leave their pain in the past where it belongs. My journey to a new life will always be challenging after my own strokes, but it will be rewarding as well. I want to help others find their journey to their own brand-new life.”