Lisa Cox and I have never met in person. We don’t live in the same State so the odds of actually meeting up are quite slim.
It doesn’t matter. We have shared a special connection from the moment we started chatting in a Facebook group chat many months ago.
Facebook for the win again!
I’m excited that Lisa could join us here on Starbrite Warrior to share her story and how she’s living a life she absolutely adores.
Let’s do this!
A bit about Lisa
Professional Bio: Lisa is an awarded Writer, Author of two books, Copywriter and Blogger. Currently Lisa contributes to The Huffington Post and others. She has a personal and professional background in disability awareness, having worked for various organisations and travelled to Parliament House during her time with the NDIS.
Lisa consults to hospitals and healthcare groups around consumer and staff education. She is also a qualified integrative nutrition health coach with a particular interest in integrative brain health.
Lisa has a long professional background in marketing, advertising and media and holds two bachelor degrees that she got prior to acquiring her disabilities. She still uses her experience as a Writer and freelance Copywriter.
Personal Health Bio: At age 24, a rare form of the Streptococcus-A virus caused Lisa to have a brain haemorrhage. She spent the next 3 weeks in a coma and 2 months on life support. Complete organ failure, cardiac arrests, pneumonia and MRSA were all a part of this time.
Lisa spent over a year in hospital the first time where her left leg, right toes and nine fingertips were amputated. She has since returned for surgery many times including a total hip replacement and her second open heart surgery.
Today Lisa uses a wheelchair to mobilise, battles chronic nerve pain and arthritis throughout her body. A permanent brain injury has left Lisa over 25% blind with epilepsy, anxiety and fatigue. Her memory, concentration, coordination and speech have also been affected.
At the inception of chronic illness there is a lot of fear and confusion. Can you describe the time you felt the most scared?
I only became fully aware of what was going on about 3 months after my brain haemorrhage when I was already out of the coma. By that stage I’d been in a number of interstate hospitals and intensive care wards. At first, I was so full of medication that it was difficult for me to really comprehend the extent of it all. Plus, I had a newly acquired brain injury so nothing made sense.
Too weak to sit up and inspect my body and all I could really move were my hands and shrunken torso. I had no idea that my left foot and right toes had turned black and would need to be amputated (below-knee amputation of my left leg and all of my right toes). I could see all of my black fingertips though.
As the months went on I got stronger and was excited to be improving from where I’d been. But at the same time, the reality of my new life was overwhelming and scary. Every time something good happened, I’d get bad news about something else so there were several “most scared” moments.
I swung between optimism and terror, having really great days and really bad. The time that I’ve been most scared were in the days before my first heart surgery. I’d already had about a dozen operations and procedures by then but this particular one scared me shitless. I’d even picked out the song I wanted played at my funeral if something went wrong.
I’m generally a positive and optimistic person but there are also bad days and negative thoughts. Fortunately, the good outweigh the bad!
Survival really depends on learning to build something new from a changed reality. At the age of 24 you had a brain haemorrhage caused by a nasty virus (Streptococus-A) which turned your world upside down. You spent 3 weeks in a coma and 2 months on life support, where you technically died twice. Over the next year you underwent over a dozen operations and procedures including heart surgery and amputation. Your attitude? “Yeah, I’ve got some stuff going on, but I’m pretty grateful to be kicking around.” Can you share a little bit about how you came to this place of acceptance and gratitude?
I’ve written more about this here for The Huffington Post (How I Stayed Grateful During My First Year In Hospital). There’s also this article about being grateful for what your body can do (rather than what it can’t).
Importantly, gratitude didn’t come to me as an epiphany in hospital. My siblings and I had been raised to appreciate what we had when we were growing up. When I was older I witnessed some devastating hardship in my overseas travels. I thought back to this in hospital… It wasn’t always ‘fun’ but in many ways I was lucky to be there.
Everyone deals with things differently and this isn’t the only way to deal with chronic illness and disability. I learnt from hearing of other people’s experiences which is one of the reasons I now share my own.
I learnt to accept it by drawing on my past experiences. Sports taught me that no amount of self-pity was going to change what happened. I got upset and it might have helped me in the short-term but it didn’t serve me in the long-term.
On your website, LISACOX.CO, you write that “We all have challenges but we also have choices. I never planned to have my world turned upside down. I never planned to be disabled and I never planned to lose a lot (including some body parts!). But I did choose to always make the best of what I do have.” What have you done to overcome the low points and challenges in your journey? And how do you make the most of the high points?
I accept that certain challenges are now just a part of everyday life and fighting that will get me nowhere. There are so many things I can no longer control about my body or my brain so I focus on what I can control.
Everybody has a different high point and mine have evolved over time. In 2005 when I brushed my own teeth for the first time, I celebrated with family who were there. Publishing my first book was another high point. Last week something awesome happened with my work so I did a happy dance in my apartment and went out with my husband for coffee the next day – never forget the little stuff.
I try to make the most of those high points (even the little ones) by taking a second to reflect on what it took to get there. I humbly remember all of the people who have made it possible and try not to take it for granted – that doesn’t always happen but I do make a conscious effort).
Acclaimed author of two books, writer, Brain Health Ambassador for Synapse (the Brain Injury Association), professional public speaker, wife, student and a fellow wanderlust adventurer. How do you balance it all?
That’s easy to answer – I don’t!
I do a lot of different things but they’re all spaced out through the week. Fatigue means that I only really have a few good hours in the day so I find structure and routine work best for me.
It’s a very different life to the one I was leading in an advertising agency with long hours. I couldn’t do that now. Accepting my slower pace of life (which still feels really hectic sometimes) was important – instead of trying to do things at the pace I once did.
You spend your free time devoted to the things that inspire you and make you happy. What does this look like for you?
Movement makes me happy! Before my disabilities I played a lot of sport and loved being active (gym, running, Australian volleyball squad and rock climbing overseas). Today, I still have that urge to be active but have had to adapt it accordingly. There’s a gym below my apartment and they’re used to seeing me there a few times each week. I can’t use all of the equipment and things like nerve pain, arthritis and prosthetics slow me down but love doing what I can down there a few days a week. It’s great for anxiety too!
Movement makes me happy but reading and writing inspires me. I’m fortunate to do work I love and am so grateful that technology allows me to get the thoughts down.
Spending quality time with loved ones makes me the happiest by far!
I’m also happy and inspired when I’m around other happy and inspiring people. I feel claustrophobic around toxic influences. The online world (especially advocacy) can be full of negativity, bitterness and hate. I have no room in my life for resentment.
I can’t write about inspiration without mentioning my husband. He’s the best and I love him for being him.
“It’s Time to Roar!” Through your speaking gigs, brand ambassadorship and writing, you are motivating women to find courage, regain confidence and restore clarify to reclaim control of their lives. How has sharing your insights and experiences benefited not only the women you work with, but also yourself, to “Find Fearless Freedom?”
I’ve received some beautiful emails over the years. Letters of thanks from girls and women who now think differently about life after something I’ve written or said.
That’s pretty cool and it fills my heart with so much joy to think that I can help somebody else to also live a life they absolutely adore.
Over the years I have learnt so much from people who shared their stories. It uplifted, inspired and empowered me. It meant a lot to know there were others out there who ‘got it’ so now I’m paying that forward.
I Find Fearless Freedom and overcome challenges mostly relating to my health but for someone else their challenges could be career/finance/relationships/etc. Although these things are VERY different, some of the strategies to deal with it can be similar such as perseverance and commitment.
If you could offer one piece of advice to someone who has recently had their world rocked by a chronic illness diagnosis, what would you say?
Surround yourself with the right people. People who will support you through the good and bad and will also understand when you’re having ‘one of those days.’
Just a note: Be careful in the online space. There can be a lot of anger and bitterness.
Where can we find you?
And that’s a wrap! Thanks Lisa!
If you would like to participate (be interviewed!) please drop me an email at bree[at]starbritewarrior.com and we’ll have a chat!
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Photo Credit (Featured Image): Pixabay
Photo Credit (Bio Photo): Lisa Cox