A former English teacher, Jenny Sheldon was left unable to speak after suffering a stroke. But Jenny never lost her understanding of words and determined to regain her life, she used singing, swimming and her love of life to find her way back.
Her account of her recovery, I Will: A Memoir of Stroke, Renewal and the Power of Song is her triumph – and a compelling example to others.
Interview: Jenny Sheldon with Sharon Dean May 2018
Is non-fluent aphasia still one of your biggest challenges?
Yes. When I’m tired I can’t think – for instance, speaking on the phone to someone new. If I’m having to explain something complicated, I get stuck.
Do you find yourself using simple language because using more complex language takes longer, and requires more patience from listeners?
Yes. I make it simple so I can get it out to the listener.
I sort of go ‘blank’. After the stroke I knew what I wanted to say but I couldn’t say it, couldn’t express the words. It was frustrating and scary. Before my stroke, I was a great conversationalist – I was quick and funny. I didn’t have a care in the world. I just got on with things. And I was in plays.
Did you see yourself as a highly articulate speaker?
Yes. I read Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Lucy Maude Montgomery – and many other authors. I was a dreamer wanting to be an actor someday. I liked the stimulus of new ideas. I loved it!!
Did the stroke impact your unspoken vocabulary?