Four-time marathon and half Ironman finisher John Merrill incorporates the same self-proclaimed “can-do spirit” it took to finish the grueling races into his everyday life post-stroke.
“I don’t want to be an Olympic gold medal winner, I don’t want to be a major league player, but I do small things within my capabilities and set reasonable goals by just saying, ‘I’m going to do this,’” Merrill says.
Although he’s no longer able to run or swim, Merrill, 66, doesn’t let that discourage him. “Running and swimming were such a part of my life for so long, but I shouldn’t expect to do the things I did 15 years ago,” he says. “I don’t look back and think there’s something I could’ve done to fix history. I can only deal with the here and now.”
Merrill stays focused on his recovery by walking, meeting new people and recently began yoga. He also cares for himself and lives alone, which he admits isn’t always easy. “Picking up prescriptions and running errands used to be simple tasks, and you don’t think anything of them, but when you have a stroke they become challenging,” he says.
In June 2015, one year after retiring as a technology management consultant, Merrill, who’s also a veteran, had a stroke while alone in his home. Doctors told Merrill he was lucky. “When I got inside the hospital, the doctor turned to the rescue guy and said, ‘good job — he probably had four or five minutes to spare,’” he says. “We had a good chuckle, and I thought then that I was going to keep a positive outlook though this.”
Merrill does his best to motivate people, even those he’s never met standing in line at the grocery store. “I have two choices in life – I can accept my condition and move forward and try to be an inspiration and encourage others, or I can say ‘poor me’,” he says. “Seek out something you love and use your gifts to survive.”
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