At this time three years ago I was flat on my back in North Shore hospital after having woken up after a severe stroke. The right side of my face had slumped, my right arm was dead with no ability to move, and I had trouble walking and maintaining my balance. My blood pressure was around 200/120. It was three days before my 50th birthday and I was in very bad shape.

Little did I know it, but the stroke was the least of my troubles. The first inkling of those troubles was receiving media enquiries within 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital. How did they know? It caused me not inconsiderable stress, and the so-called journalist trying to contact me was David Fisher.

With such a massive privacy breach I was loath to stay at North Shore Hospital, but in any case, it was decided to transfer me to the Stroke Unit at Auckland Hospital after several tests and scans.

I slept a lot and had many, many tests. MRIs, CT Scans, a TOE Test. The TOE test was on the morning of my 50th birthday, it involved a dose of fentanyl, then an echo sounder being fed down my throat so they could scan the back side of the heart. The TOE result was fine, the fentanyl was awesome. I arrived back at my hospital room high as a kite to have a birthday lunch of whitebait fritters and black pudding.

One test, performed on the day of my discharge, after a week in hospital, was to establish clinically if I would ever regain the use of my arm again. It involved placing a figure of eight shaped electrode over the site of the stroke on my head, and recording electrical impulses in my arm on electrodes down the arm. The grim faces of the medical guys conducting the test told me everything I needed to know. When they wanted to do the tests again, I knew it was bad.

They told me I’d never use my right arm again, it was that blunt. They got the neurologist to come and explain it to me. That was a pretty low moment. Thankfully the neurologist then told me I’d have to learn to do everything with my left hand. I asked, “Like what?” He said, “Like writing”. 

“Great,” I said, “Pass a pen, no time like the present,” and started writing something on a piece of paper. What I wrote was, “You clearly haven’t read my notes, I’m left-handed.”

That certainly lightened the mood. But at that moment I resolved to prove the “experts” wrong. Can’t isn’t a word I recognise, and a word I seldom use. Can’t is what other people say. I told the specialists they were wrong, and I left hospital determined to prove them wrong.

And that is what I have done. In the first year, the only thing I did was physio, physio, physio. Slowly but surely I have managed to get back use of my right arm. In the second and third years, I have maintained going to physio, twice a week. I haven’t missed a single appointment.

The only interruption to that has been Ardern’s lockdowns. Just as I am progressing on particular goals then along comes a lockdown and prevents further recovery. So much for kindness.

The key thing here is that I have never stopped progressing. I was hoping to be able to touch my little finger with my thumb before the three years was up. Sadly because of the latest lockdown that will be delayed.

One of the things I continue to do is to explore the things that aid in stroke recovery. Nicotine improves cognitive functions by modulating neuroplasticity and cortical excitability in nonsmoking subjects. Recent studies show that the positive effect of nicotine on cognition might at least partially be caused by a focusing effect of nicotine on neuroplasticity. So cigar smoking, which doesn’t involve sucking smoke into your lungs, but delivers lots of nicotine, actually has been helping with stroke recovery as well as forcing me to take time out just for myself.

Naturally, people will shudder at the thought of that but when you are facing being crippled or even dead then you really stop caring about what people think. I didn’t really want to smoke cigarettes, and patches and gum are just gay, same with vaping. But I needed to find a way to deliver big hits of nicotine in the shortest amount of time. That delivery mechanism is cigars. You aren’t sucking the smoke into your lungs, and the only ingredient in cigars is tobacco and tax, so you don’t get all the nasty chemicals.

On top of that, you can deliver big hits if you like high nicotine varietals for the tobacco, which I do. So, cigar-smoking it is. Thankfully there is a great cigar vendor in New Zealand, Grant Ovenden at Canteros. If you ever want advice or guidance he is the guy to contact and is simply the best vendor in New Zealand. I also wrote about this discovery and aspects of my recovery at The Cold Draw.

My life had to change. Stress, constant combat, fighting and negativity were killing me. By focusing only on physiotherapy I could begin to seek peace. Initially, I couldn’t do much at physio, but every day I forced myself to go and endure failure, over and over again, but slowly and surely I was improving.

The stroke has also impacted me in other ways. I was a blunt person beforehand; now I’m even blunter. I normally have said things that others were too afraid to say; that is still the case but even more so. When I had my stroke I was a very angry person. It was Uani who highlighted this to me. He told me the anger would kill me. He was right. I have had to learn to relax. It was forced on me but I have had to do it. That means that I have to have a nap every afternoon as well. To miss that means I suffer, so in essence, I’ve become Spanish, having a siesta each afternoon. That is one way to assist recovery but also slows me down.

I still can’t easily type as my right hand is the last part to come right. So, when I start writing or working again it is likely to be via podcasts. I’m still some way off returning to active work as my memory is still badly affected and simple things like names still elude me. That said, things are improving but what I initially thought would be a rapid recovery isn’t. It has taken a single-minded focus to get this far.

Part of my recovery has included taking a more active part in shotgun shooting. It was Gilly Davy who insisted that I get back shooting. It allows me to participate in my chosen sports near to home and is helping with the physical rehabilitation. I picked up a gun again in October 2019, a year after my stroke, and have been going at least once a week shooting sporting clays or shooting Olympic Trap. My muscle memory was coming back and my shooting was well over 90%. This is part of getting a better life balance for myself.

Added to that was joining Antique Arms and actually enjoying getting out and shooting antique firearms. Meeting up with the other members is a necessary and pleasant way of de-stressing and talking about my favourite sports, equipment and activities.

That better life balance will also come from doing a lot more hunting as my strength and fitness increases. By healing the body, I will heal the mind.

Stroke recovery is tedious and difficult. I’ve come a long way but the only way I was able to do it was by letting everything else go. Living is far more important to me than being right.

The thing you find out when you have a life-changing medical event like this is just precisely who your friends are. Who are there for you and who are not. Those who are not aren’t worth the time. I’ve cut them from my life and don’t miss them at all. What is astounding to me is the cheek some of them have. Like my local MP who has four times in the last three years enquired of my father as to how I am. Each time he’s told my Dad that he will come and catch up with me. He hasn’t so much as rung, texted or even sent a card. The last time he asked about me, my father pointed out his lack of honouring his commitments so he really didn’t believe a word he said. That MP was last seen scuttling off from the group he was just embarrassed in front of. What has been amazing though are the heartfelt texts from opposing MPs in Labour and other parties, out of nowhere they’d text to ask how I was, and offer support and understanding. Only one MP in National has been a constant support and you can all guess who that is.

Those who are there for you are treasures. Those of you who were there for me know who you are and I thank you most profusely for the support you’ve given me and those around me.

The team that helps in the back end of The BFD really stepped up. I am truly grateful that you all helped keep the site running and the content flowing. I consider team members as part of my loyal family. You died in a ditch for me, and know that I’ll die in a ditch for you.

Same for the site’s loyal readers and members. It is for you that I am fighting to get back in the game, albeit on new terms and conditions. Your loyalty is something to be treasured and is a constant bafflement to my detractors. They clearly have no concept of loyalty.

And so now three long years have elapsed. The struggle continues. I’m still here, I’m still fighting, and I’m not going away.

But I will continue to develop a better life/work balance. I’m taking up new hobbies and starting some new projects for relaxation.

There are certainly many more challenges ahead. Finding out what continues to deplete my potassium is a work in progress. But, like everything, I will eventually solve that one too.

Contrary to what the doctors predicted I do have the use of my right arm. I can’t yet type with that hand, but it is getting slowly but surely stronger and more dexterous. It won’t recover fully, and there will always be an impairment, but even so I’m a better person both mentally and physically, despite my impairment, than most people. I describe myself as enhanced rather than impaired.

At some stage, I may write a book, or sit with someone who will write it for me. There is so much to tell about, not just the past three years, but also the things I’ve done in my life that few people know about. I’ve certainly had plenty of time to think about it, and there is lots to tell. Eventually, the other side of what the media and my opponents have said will need to be told. Then people will see the real me, and not the dark cartoonish persona my opponents attempt to pigeonhole me as. The truth will out, and that time is coming.

For now, I will keep on keeping on. I know that the mere fact that I am living and breathing gives my political enemies cold comfort. I still live rent-free in their tiny, feeble minds. And the funny thing is, even after a serious stroke like I’ve had, I’m still better at what I do than all of them combined. 

I’m well on the road to a near full recovery, and I have lots more that I want to achieve. You will see it happen because I won’t be deterred from achieving those goals.

That last thing I will leave you with that is pertinent to these dark, tyrannical times we are all facing, is that sometimes it is best to just let things go. It’s hard and it has taken me several years to get there.

Many of you want to fight this government and that is commendable but as Sun Tzu says: “however desperate the situation and circumstances, don’t despair. When there is everything to fear, be unafraid. When surrounded by dangers, fear none of them. When without resources, depend on resourcefulness. When surprised, take the enemy by surprise.”

Add to Napoleon Bonaparte’s maxim: “Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself”. For that is surely what Jacinda Ardern is now currently doing by mandating forced medical procedures, introducing draconian internal borders and the modern equivalent to ‘show us your papers’, along with abrogating democracy by ramming through the confiscation of council assets. Let them make these mistakes, because every single action they are currently taking is negatively affecting their re-election prospects.

You can’t stop it anyway, because they have a majority. You don’t have to accept it but realise that you can’t stop it …… yet. Patience is now a virtue. Just let it play out. Keep your powder dry. Just let it go. Their time is at an end. It is a long way to the next election and soon enough people will realise that they are the ones destroying this country.

Just let it go. Do not fear, be strong, we will prevail. Watch the wheels go by:

People say I'm crazy Doing what I'm doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings
To save me from ruin
When I say that I'm okay, well they look at me kinda strange
"Surely, you're not happy now, you no longer play the game"

People say I'm lazy
Dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice
Designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
"Don't you miss the big time boy, you're no longer on the ball?"

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Ah, people ask me questions
Lost in confusion
Well, I tell them there's no problem
Only solutions
Well, they shake their heads and they look at me, as if I've lost my mind
I tell them there's no hurry, I'm just sitting here doing time

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go

And that’s it from me with this update. I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. The stroke changed everything but actually, in retrospect, it has been for the better. I think it has enhanced me. I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall…and I’ll be back at full strength soon enough.

You’d all do well to take the same philosophy because this country is going to need us to build it back to the once-great nation that Jacinda Ardern has managed to destroy in four short years.

In the meantime just watch them make their mistakes.

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Three Years Has Just Flown By
Cam Slater

Cam Slater

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news,...