• "As time went on, I realised it was not too late. It’s never too late." Pictured- Lyn Larkins. (Supplied )
When Lyn Larkins had a stroke two years ago, doctors weren’t sure if she would survive more than 24 hours. Now, two years on, her diet has kept strokes at bay.
By
Lyn Larkins, Presented by
Yasmin Noone

4 Sep 2018 - 1:06 PM  UPDATED 5 Sep 2018 - 4:00 PM

I was 52 when had a stroke. It happened just two days after my 25th wedding anniversary.

I woke up in the morning, feeling a bit strange. When I got out of bed, I kept on falling on my knees. But the realisation that I was having a stroke never entered my mind.

I reacted to what was happening in my body by doing the worst thing possible thing for a stroke – I didn’t get help straight away. I hid it from my family initially because I didn’t want them to worry. But when my husband came home from work later that day, he saw that my face was drooped on one side and took me to the hospital.

It was there that I got the biggest shock. The doctor said to me ‘I think you’ve had a stroke’.

Instead, one of the doctors stepped forward and said ‘we don’t know Lyn. A lot will depend on what happens with your brain bleed. We will know in the next 24 hours.’

They then sent me to a [bigger hospital] in Wollongong [NSW] to be treated by the specialist stroke team. That day, the stroke team come around to see me.

I said to the doctors ‘I’m going to be okay aren’t I?’ I just expected them to say ‘yes’. Instead, one of the doctors stepped forward and said ‘we don’t know Lyn. A lot will depend on what happens with your brain bleed. We will know in the next 24 hours.’

That was not the response I was expecting. It’s a terrifying feeling not to know if you are going to live or die. But the fear I felt in that hospital gave me the motivation to change my ways.

Before the stroke, I had been neglecting myself for many, years. My cholesterol was high. I had out of control diabetes and I was very overweight – a size 20. I am of Aboriginal heritage and I know that strokes are a big issue in my community. Bad eating and poor exercise is also a big thing.

I ate crap. I lived on KFC and ate everything salty, chips, lollies and chocolate. I was very much a comfort food eater. The thought of eating healthy never interested me.

The doctor used to give me blood tests and say your cholesterol and sugars are a bit high. You need to go on medication for this and this. I took the tablets, thought everything would be okay. But as it turned out, it wasn’t.

It’s a terrifying feeling not to know if you are going to live or die. But the fear I felt in that hospital gave me the motivation to change my ways.

When I got home after the stroke, I knew I was lucky to have survived but was so scared about having another stroke. I thought ‘I don’t ever want to go through this again. But I wondered, ‘was it too late to change my health?’ As time went on, I realised it was not too late. It’s never too late.

So I started walking and eating healthily. I was just determined not to go back to that horrible place. I started losing weight and getting healthier. I also did rehabilitation every day for six months after the stroke to get my speech and [the movement] in my arm back.

As time went on, I realised it was not too late. It’s never too late.

How I turned my health around

It’s been two years since the stroke now and I feel confident that I won’t have another one. I am currently a size 12. I’m not smoking. I’m eating really healthily and am exercising every day.

Changing the food I ate and educating myself about what’s in the food I eat was a big part of [my recovery]. Prior to the stroke, I never thought about what I was eating – I just ate. But now, every time I have a meal, I always ask myself if the food I am eating is good for me.

I always thought the way I was before was the norm. Now that I eat well, exercise and feel wonderful, I think I should have made all of these changes years ago.

Since the stroke, I’ve cut out all the crap from my diet and now eat fruit and veges. I’ve given up Diet Coke. I did give up chocolate for around six to 12 months but then I craved it. So I don’t deprive myself of it now – I have a little piece, say, a Caramello Bear once a week.

I never used to eat breakfast in the mornings before, as I was always too busy. Now, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. I’ve also started drinking at least one litre of water a day.

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Making all of these changes was hard going because my mind used to be programmed to think ‘if I’m hungry, I’ll just go and get some take away food’. But making these changes to my diet and lifestyle was worth it. I feel like a different person today because I have so much energy.

To be honest, I never knew that being healthy felt so good. I always thought the way I was before was the norm. Now that I eat well, exercise and feel wonderful, I think I should have made all of these changes years ago.

But it’s never too late to change. It’s hard fighting back from a stroke but you can lean on family, friends and the Stroke Foundation to get support, information and connect with other stroke survivors. You’ve got to make the most of your second chance.

If you are having a stroke, call emergency services as soon as you can on 000. If you are in need of support, information or advice on stroke recovery, treatment and prevention, visit Stroke Foundation Australia online or call 1800 787 653.

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