The Quickest Way To Start Living Life Again? Suffer a Stroke Ten Years Ago, Recover Accordingly Over the Next Decade

Tomorrow marks my 10-year anniversary of suffering a stroke—specifically a right cerebral infarction. The story of that day is well documented in various blogs I’ve written over the years. I’ve never made light of that day—nor have I ever taken one day for granted since. In fact, I’m acutely aware of the fact I fully cheated death—and during Stroke Awareness Month, no less.

Funny how a life-or-death wake-up call like that can shake you to your core. In my 30s, I was merely coasting. In my 40s, I chose to unabashedly and unapologetically live my best life. And I want to celebrate the last decade with a look back at some of the highest of high points.

2010—I spent exactly three days in the hospital recuperating. On the day I got sprung, I vowed that—no matter what was asked of me—I was not going to say no to one damn thing for the next 365 days. I went skydiving and white water rafting, flew to Germany spontaneously and lived the daredevil life of someone who just cheated death. Every time I would mention some zany new adventure to my parents, my mom would say, “You’re going to give us a stroke.”

2011—I started writing for an upstart (and queerly clever) online blog, MoxieQ. For well over a year, I wrote daily articles that highlighted snarky vignettes of pop culture. I interviewed countless celebrities on various red carpets. (Shout out, Bernadette Peters! Shalom, Carson Kressley!) 2011 was the year I found that my minor league musings attracted a following and what I wrote resonated with my readers—both of them. Oh, and I finally resumed using Botox after promising my neurologist I wouldn’t use it until a year after my stroke.

2012—Got fired on my birthday in March. While I was in Palm Springs. Sunning myself like a lizard on a rock. Two months later, I auditioned for the opportunity to co-host a local talk show, Kansas City Live. In my life, I’ve probably been on 60 different auditions—and never got cast once. Yup, I was 0-60. I actually scored the KCL gig. Turns out the ol’ adage is true. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try X10 again. To celebrate, my best friend Mithra took me to India for a 11-day spiritual sojourn. We bumped into the Dalai Lama at a tiny airport in Leh Ladakh, India. (Ask me about it sometime. It’s quite the story. And, no, I didn’t say, “Hello, Dalai.” Why does everyone naturally assume that?)

2013—Became a wildly famous, internationally renowned talk show host—uh, in my mind. Highlights, you ask? I got into an on-air skirmish with a very opioid-addled (allegedly) Chris Kattan on live TV. I asked Joe Manganiello several times to take his shirt off during our interview. (He declined.) And I tripped and knocked over $400 vase seconds before a live segment with a gallery owner. (So. Much. Nervous. Laughter.) I loved that job so much I never called in sick once.

2014—Got fired, again. Won a Best Host Emmy after the fact. (Suck it, haters.) Spent nearly three months just hanging out in Des Moines with my folks nursing my wounds. Landed a quirky new gig training real-life patients how to hype their boutique medications to the public-at-large. Quickly learned how much I enjoyed turning your Average Joe and JoAnne into media darlings. Began to travel the country. You name it the city, I visited it. Sheboygan, check. Poughkeepsie, check. Butte, mercifully not. The Bevinator unexpectedly passed away unexpectedly in December. I don’t remember much after that—except my friends smothered me with attention, love and food items with frosting. (And the fact that I got to spend three uninterrupted months hanging out with Mom earlier that year wasn’t lost on me either.)

2015—This was my year of being a road warrior and living out of a suitcase. It was ah-mah-zing. Hello, Newark. Atlanta. Chicago. Flint. Shreveport. Palm Springs. San Angelo. Raleigh. Philadelphia. Portland. Daytona Beach. Athens. Columbus. Orlando. Austin. Yakima. Indianapolis. Ft. Lauderdale. Oklahoma City. Milwaukee. Hartford. Ft. Wayne. Roanoke. Boston. Bowie. Detroit. Des Moines and St. Louis. Thanks for the hospitality. It was also the year of keeping the spirit of The Bevinator alive.

2016—Got sober. Like legit sober. Took me a min.

2017—Got fired, again. (See also: 2012 and 2014) Threw caution to the wind and used my pittance of unemployment to travel. (It helped that I had accumulated 34,717,298 airline miles in the previous couple years.) Ended up at a surreal beach house in Mérida, Mexico where I rang in 2018 with a feast fit for a king.

2018—Plenty of good stuff occurred this year. Took a 12-day Scandinavian cruise, for instance. The biggest thing to happen to me, however? I spent the day touring Athens, GA with my musical idol Cindy Wilson of The B-52s. Y’all, time stopped that day. If there was ever a reason to survive a stroke, this was it. Also, I just happened to visit her on April 20. Yes, 4/20. You do the math.

2019—Last year Stella got her groove back. My writing flourished at IN Kansas City Magazine. My celeb interviews were plentiful. (Jane Fonda! Janelle Monáe! Um, Andrew Dice Clay!) Oh, and I gave up sugar. For the entire year. My motto? “No sugar, no sweeteners, no gluten, no starches—no kidding.” I wrote about it extensively. Still surprised I didn’t win a Peabody award for riveting journalism. Managed not to kill anyone while I was detoxing one of the most addictive substances on the planet. In the middle of all of it, my Dad ironically suffered a stroke and passed away—ON. MY. STROKE. ANNIVERSARY. I was devastated. A few months later, I was sitting outside and a hummingbird buzzed about six inches from my face for .002 seconds. That was Dad reminding me all was well. Good job, Dad—I needed that.

2020—Went on an 80s Cruise second before the world imploded from coronavirus culture. High-fived MTV VJ Nina Blackwood in an elevator. Touched Taylor Dayne’s fringe jumpsuit (but not in a creepy way). Grew my beard out during quarantine. Someone mentioned I now resemble an “homeless Amish serial killer.” Joy. I turned 50 40. Wrote this blog. Let’s hope 2020 picks up a bit.

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