SCAN Club Issue 4 2023

The Power of Focusing on What You CAN Do

“You must accept certain things in life. That doesn’t mean you like them. But accepting them relieves you of resentment that can cause a lot of problems. Then you can move forward in a positive way.”

—Cheryl M., SCAN member and Peer Advocate

Woman smiles at camera.

If anyone knows about accepting change and moving forward, it’s Cheryl. At age 31, she had a stroke that drastically changed her physical abilities. She had to relearn life’s most basic tasks, including getting out of bed, walking and caring for her two small children.

Cheryl is now 53 and lives independently. She cooks, cleans her house, drives and otherwise gets around on her own with either her walker or power chair. As one of SCAN’s Peer Advocates, she’s happy to share what’s helped her with members who are also experiencing changes to what they’re able to do.

“It took me a while to adapt to having a body that wouldn’t do things I was asking it to do,” Cheryl says. “I had to realize I had impairments that weren’t going to miraculously disappear, and so I was going to have to figure out how to move forward with them.”

Instead of dwelling on what she was able to do before and now couldn’t, Cheryl chose to focus on what she could do.

Although the right side of her body was weak, for example, she found she could train herself to do most everything left-handed. She also decided to exercise her brain: She went to school and earned an associate’s degree and a certificate in drug and alcohol counseling, and eventually added her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Cheryl also finds that connecting with others helps her stay positive, better able to cope with challenges and “keeps me from having a pity party!” While younger than most of her fellow SCAN members, Cheryl is all too familiar with the frustration many older adults feel when they can’t do something they could before.

“I’m not perfect; some days I say a few choice words because I can’t get up and move like I want,” Cheryl says with a laugh. “But I can tell you that it does no good to be mad about things you can’t control.”

Instead, she says: “I’m constantly thinking, ‘OK, so I can’t do it that way, but how can I do it?’”

Cheryl overhead her son’s friend say he felt sorry for her because she was “handicapped.” Cheryl’s son shot back: “My mom’s not handicapped. She’s handi-capable!”

Hearing this, she says, “was like a light bulb went on, and I realized how far I had come and how much I could still do.”

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