'I was trapped in a body that was dead': Stroke survivor illustrates memoir about hope and recovery

Stroke survivor Terence Ang has come up with a book titled A Cry in the Dark: A Stroke Survivor’s Story Of Hope And Recovery. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF TERENCE ANG

SINGAPORE - It was an ordinary day after work when Mr Terence Ang collapsed in the toilet in his home.

His stroke in August 2020 opens the book, A Cry In The Dark: A Stroke Survivor's Story Of Hope And Recovery, which he illustrated and is penned by freelance writer Radiance Leong. The title is from Focus Publishing, the custom content subsidiary of SPH Media.

When Mr Ang's stroke occurred, he was the head of digital marketing and e-commerce at a consumer electronics company. He thought at the time that he was in the pink of health.

Initially, he was told by doctors that he would not survive the stroke.

Mr Ang, 55, who is single, tells The Straits Times in an e-mail interview: "I found out that more younger people are becoming victims of this destructive monster. I want to raise awareness that anyone can suffer a stroke.

"I also want to tell fellow victims, as well as their caregivers and loved ones, that they are not alone. There is help and there is hope."

The book's illustrations detail moments of emotional darkness and light. Mr Ang drew them with his right hand, which was rendered non-functional by the stroke, but which he has since regained the use of through rehabilitation.

Scenes from the hospital and his recuperation journey are sketched in bold monochromatic lines, with his frustrations depicted as black swarms.

He recounts dealing for a few months with an onslaught of crippling fear after his discharge from the hospital. Although he resumed work a week later, he faced mounting pressure as he tried to assimilate back to normality. He relapsed shortly after his blood pressure spiked and had to be hospitalised again.

He recalls: "My mind was a stranger. I was trapped in a body that was dead. I tried very hard to die, but found that dying was just as difficult.

"Finally, I decided that I was going to live life magnificently and beautifully. In the midst of my struggle towards some form of functional mobility, I discovered something germinating, coming alive, deep within. Documenting my personal experience, I came face to face with a new creation, a new me."

Mr Ang says his new self is like a child. "The adult starts from the premise of 'I once knew' and struggles with the indignity and humiliation of relearning.

"For the child, every achievement is a celebration. Learning to walk, to feed myself, to experiment with vocabulary and make mistakes can be rather joyful."

He has been on sabbatical since November 2021 to work on his book.

Mr Ang also pays tribute to the network of doctors, nurses, therapists, family and friends who kept his spirits raised while he soldiered through recovery.

"I have the belief that nothing is permanent and that most things - especially the painful and ugly - shall pass," he says.

He is working on setting up a holistic treatment centre to make rehabilitation more accessible to post-stroke patients and people with neurological issues such as aphasia. He hopes the centre can help patients gain a measure of independence and improve their quality of life.

Mr Terence Ang drew the illustrations with his right hand, which had been rendered non-functional, but which he has since regained the use of through rehabilitation. PHOTO: FOCUS PUBLISHING

He says recounting his experiences for the book was a good healing process as it helped him to view his condition in an objective manner.

He adds: "Suffering a stroke is not the end of life, but a new beginning. We have the power to fill the pages of our lives with love and light. Miracles do happen.

"There's always something to laugh about, even when you're crying."

A Cry In The Dark: A Stroke Survivor's Story Of Hope And Recovery ($23) is available at all major bookstores and on this website.


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