PARRY SOUND - The journey, understandably, hasn’t been easy.
Nor has it been without heartache, or pain, but it is all part of a pre-planned destiny that brought Millie Graham to where she is today.
The most recent path brought Graham to unfamiliar territory - becoming an author of her self-published book, The Lone Road Home.
She admits she’s always liked to write, dabbling here and there, but never quite to this extent.
Since becoming a spokesperson for the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation in 1994, two years after suffering from a massive hermetic stroke, Graham has shared her story no less than 179 times at various speaking engagements across the province.
She has helped raise more than $9.9 million dollars for the organization and was the recipient of its Heart of Gold Award in 2007.
Among other speaking engagements, Graham has shared her story with post-grad medical and rehab students at Western University in London, Ontario.
After her second visit at the university, Graham was approached by Jim Weese, Faculty of Health Sciences dean and professor at the university, asking if she had started writing her story in a book format.
Inspired, she went home and began writing.
“I got the first six chapters done over three years ago. I got discouraged and it just sat on the shelf for close to two years,” Graham said.
Another person came into her life last summer, who again suggested she write her story.
Again inspired, Graham sat down to write, but this time she found she couldn’t stop.
“She encouraged me so much that when she left I sat down at my computer and I wrote four chapters. When I started to write this, I was consumed by it. I would go into my office and shut the door and it just poured out of here,” she said putting her hand over her heart. “And often in the middle of the night I couldn’t sleep or I’d wake up and I had dreamed part of what was in a chapter and I’d go and write.”
Using only her right hand - her left side is left paralyzed from the stroke - Graham typed the entire book in a little over two months.
Because she tells her story so often, Graham says the details of her stroke, hospitalization, misdiagnosis, rehabilitation and finally learning to walk and become independent are always fresh in her mind and helped prepare her for writing the book.
However, some aspects, she was uncertain if she should publish, but ultimately felt it had to be told completely and fairly.
“Even the story about the misdiagnosis in Parry Sound, Doug (Graham’s husband) and I talked a lot about that, whether we were going to put it in the book or not,” Graham said. “Doug said, ‘you can’t leave it out.’ Now I’ve couched it very carefully and I didn’t use names, but that story had to be told. It was shocking to a lot of people.
“I wasn’t trying to write a detailed, complicated diary of every minute of my journey,” she said. “I was trying to put the concept of how hard and difficult that it was to learn to walk again, but if you put your mind to it, anybody can achieve the same thing. It was more about that, than the gory details of the whole experience.”
Graham humbly says this book is a modest attempt at writing but says there are four more books “that are just waiting to pour out of my head.”
Aside from the unwavering support from family and friends, Graham speaks of her faith and how Christianity got her through and surrounds her with people to help during her healing journey.
“That’s who I am. I’m not preaching it to anybody. I’m not saying that’s how you should be, but this is who I am,” she said. “You couldn’t separate me from (my faith). You can either be a victim or a student of your circumstances. For 20 years, I had that in my head - from the very beginning,” she said.
“I can either be poor me, or I can learn as I’m going through this journey. When I would get down and depressed, I had to say, ‘I choose to learn from this experience, I don’t want it to consume me, I don’t ever want to be sitting looking out a window or being pushed around in a wheelchair, I’m too young.’ At the time, I didn’t consciously realize I ... I would have audiences to share this story and let you know it doesn’t matter what you’re experiencing in your life, there’s always a way to get to the top of the mountain.”
Graham decided to self-publish the book and had 1,000 copies printed and said it wouldn’t even exist without help from Fran Whittaker with Aqua Graphics.
Graham will have a book signing on May 18 from 5 to 9 p.m. and May 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside Distler Construction office on William Street.
Books are available to purchase through Graham and on the Amazon website in the near future.
“The reason why you make life special is because you want a quality of life,” she said. “There’s no quality of life living your life in regret or in depression. The quality of life you give to yourself is just as important as what you do for the people around you.”
For more information or to purchase a copy of The Lone Road Home email Millie Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org