Friday, October 31, 2014

My Best Friend's Mom

My BFF is Tony Colter. 

Tony is currently a DJ on Sirius/XM on BB King’s Bluesville and Watercolors (smooth/contemporary jazz).  Check him out, he’s good.  I’ve known him since eighth grade and that my friends is a long time.  Tony is my brother but I really want to talk about his mother, Jeanette Colter. She always was and always will be Mrs. Colter to me.

She also had a stroke.

I was in New York then, hadn’t had my stroke yet, but more important knew nothing, I stress nothing, about stroke.  Wasn’t even on my radar. Her caregiver was Tony’s sister, and my dear friend Vickie, who told me her mother’s story.

Mrs. Colter had a benign brain tumor and as a result of that surgery, suffered a stroke. Vickie told me that afterwards she had problems with aphasia, which is defined as an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. A lot of words for ‘something is wrong.’  Mrs. Colter also suffered from occasional seizures and took a drug which helped her with those seizures.

Take a deep breath because this story starts off not so good but ends up a whole lot better.

While Mrs. Colter was going through rehab and relearning how to write, to drive, to speak, I was busy with my career and starting a family.  She and my mom were best friends and I heard about her trials from my mother as well as from Tony. She got better and better and then…I had my stroke.

By then I was no longer at the network and had moved to Florida to be a news anchor at WKMG, the CBS affiliate here in Orlando.  One day I flew home, to Maryland, to see my friends and family and Tony. I have to tell you, I was Best Man at his wedding to Doreen and am godfather to his daughter, Karley.  After staying at his home, Tony drove me to the airport and I had my massive stroke on the jet back to my home. Soon it was me rehabbing, and learning to walk and talk again. While doing that I learned a bunch about stroke because, well, I had to. This was my new life.

Just about everyone who has had one thinks they’re alone and wonders why it happened to them.  I know I did. You want the world to stop because you have and let me tell you it doesn’t quite work that way. Life marches on.

This is where Mrs. Colter came back into my life.

My television career seemed to be over, my days were filled with rehab and the nights were the worst. In the dark it seemed like you had way too much time to reflect, to think that maybe this was how the story was going to end up.

Mrs. Colter, who also now lived in Florida, came to visit.

The first thing I noticed was how you couldn’t tell that she had even had a stroke. She looked great. Her husband, Colonel Colter, was there as was Tony and my wife Denise.

We had a grand old time, she laughed about how her handwriting was awful, post stroke, and told me to keep doing what I was doing.  She told me that having a stroke wasn’t necessarily the end of the line.

I needed to hear that.

One of the things I’ll never forget…we went into my den which has pictures on the wall from the old days. Me with Ali, me with Jack Nicholson, me with President Clinton (all Denise’s idea, I went there kicking and screaming lol) and I said to Mrs. Colter, “I had a good life.” She said, “No, you HAVE a good life.”

 It’s a story I tell to this day.

I speak all the time around the country, I want people to see that stroke affects everyone -gender, age, income, race, it doesn’t matter.  I want survivors to see my face, the face of stroke. I also want people to know there IS life after stroke.

She taught me that.

Thank you Mrs.Colter.


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