Photo of stroke survivor, Sarah, playing the piano.

Recovery from a stroke can be a long and difficult process. But moments of hope are what keep stroke survivors like Sarah Jay Hawley going. The professional singer-songwriter and music teacher, 53 from Sheffield, was told she would never read again after her stroke.

'I woke in the middle of the night with pins and needles shooting through the right side of my body, face and brain. I was terrified. I didn't have any support, just my daughter who was 15.

'In the early days and weeks following my stroke, my Stroke Association Support Coordinator, Karen, helped me find hope. Karen came to my home once a week and supported me in ways beyond the call of duty. She was full of warmth, encouragement and all of those things that are essential when you're thrust back into the world, and it's like, 'What now?'

'Karen encouraged me to play my piano and to sing. One of the first things I did was sit at my piano and play a chord. It felt like I could see the chords and the vibrations as patterns and swirls. It was just beautiful and the first moment of hope for me during my recovery.

'I could read individual words slowly but couldn't piece them together. As a musician and writer I was adamant there was no way that I was going to lose that part of my life. I had an idea to write short stories behind all the songs I'd written. So I started writing, very slowly. This has developed into my first book, which has been an amazing journey. The book is about recovery, hope and resilience and the healing power of music and creativity.

'Within a year of my stroke, I had breast cancer, surgery, and then a car crash on the last day of the radiotherapy. It's been hell. But recently I was able to host my daughter's 21st birthday, which was quite a profound experience. Just pure joy, laughter, and complete gratitude that I am alive.

'I've had to focus on what I am able to do rather than what I should be able to do. Now I celebrate every tiny step.

'Support from the Stroke Association was invaluable, because Karen had time for me, for my story, for my ranting, for my crying, for my joy, for my laughter. She was a beacon of light. But she was only able to help me because of the Stroke Association and the people who support it.'

Find out more

If you or someone you know needs support, call our Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100.

If you can, please donate to help more stroke survivors find hope.

Stroke News magazine

This article is featured in the winter 2021 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.

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