“WHY ME?” These were the first words that Bill Torres spoke after waking up from his stroke. Like many survivors, Bill lived his first days and weeks after stroke in a dark, heavy cloud of depression. Depression creates feelings of hopelessness, guilt, helplessness, and decreased energy—all symptoms that stand in the way of a survivor’s efforts to regain mobility and speech. Yet, rather than dwelling on asking “WHY ME?” Bill’s second words were, “WHAT NOW?” He set his mind to getting better, little by little, every day. As researcher and author, Peter Levine (2013) suggests, stroke survivors must “fall in love with the process … [and] see the process of recovery as an opportunity for growth”.
Falling in Love With the Process: Cultivating Resilience in Health Crises tells Bill Torres’ story of recovery and advocacy. The book is structured along two different timelines—the timeline of Bill’s early life and the timeline of his life from stroke onward. Chapters are alternated between Bill’s stories of growing up in San Diego and chapters that provide accounts of Bill’s journey of stroke recovery. These two separate storylines come together near the close of the book as we explore Bill’s approach to advocacy and mentorship as a stroke survivor.
Falling in Love With the Process: Cultivating Resilience in Health Crises is divided into three parts:
- Part One: Picking Up the Pieces; Connecting the Dots explores the aftermath of Bill’s stroke and discusses the ways in which stigma, depression, and internalized ableism shaped Bill’s initially difficult emotional response to stroke but also offer accounts of how his communication with key health care providers reinforced Bill’s drive to work on his own rehabilitation.
- Part Two: Persisting Through Recovery considers both Bill’s capacity to structure his own rehabilitation routine and the ways in which his close network of friends supported him throughout his recovery process.
- Part Three: Communicating as an Advocate explores how Bill transformed his survivor narrative into a tool for advocacy. It explains the strategies Bill used to successfully work with other stroke survivors and also describes the compassion fatigue that can accompany this kind of communicative labor.
PART 1: PICKING UP THE PIECES; CONNECTING THE DOTS
CHAPTER 1. “Something Is Wrong”: The Stroke That Changed Everything
CHAPTER 2. “Do It to the Best of Your Ability”: Cultivating Resilience
CHAPTER 3. “I Just Knew I Would Get Better”: Waking Up to the Realities of a Stroke
CHAPTER 4. “Always Searching for Something”: Love, Loss, and the Will to Live
CHAPTER 5. “I Wanted to Go Home and Hide”: The Emotional Journey of Stroke Recovery
CHAPTER 6. “I Was Always One Step Ahead”: Memories from “Our Man on Maui”
PART 2: PERSISTING THROUGH RECOVERY
CHAPTER 7. “If Kirk Douglas Can Do It, So Can I”: Persisting in Stroke Recovery
CHAPTER 8. “I Just Fell in Love with It”: The Birth of a Sport, a Change of Career
CHAPTER 9. “Anybody He’s Helped Is His Friend Forever”: Recovery through Supportive Friendships
CHAPTER 10. “What’s My Next Adventure?”: From Sailor to Salesman
CHAPTER 11. “I’m Always Full of Coincidences”: Larger-than-Life Tales of Success
PART 3: COMMUNICATING AS AN ADVOCATE
CHAPTER 12. “You Sincerely Care about What Happens to Other People”: From Salesman to Advocate
CHAPTER 13. Becoming an “Independent Contractor”: Advocating Beyond the Hospital
CHAPTER 14. “I Set Myself Up for Being Disappointed”: The Emotional Challenges of Advocacy
CHAPTER 15. “We Shine a Big Light” on Advocates: Expressing Gratitude
Parsloe and Geist-Martin have constructed an extraordinarily evocative, sensitive, and informative tale of the life of Bill Torres, a stroke survivor who falls in love with the process of recovery and his work as an advocate. This book is a model for what it means to integrate literary storytelling— focusing on people, bodies, emotions, and lived experience—with scholarship in health communication, done from a compassionate and ethical research approach. As they listened and wrote, Sarah and Patricia fell in love with Bill; as I read, I fell in love with all three of them and with this powerful and enlightening story. Readers--scholars, students, health professionals, and stroke survivors—this book is for you. Without a doubt, you will fall in love as well!
Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.
Distinguished University Professor Emerita, Communication
University of South Florida
Author of Final Negotiations: A Story of Love, Loss, and Chronic Illness, Revised and Expanded Edition (Temple University Press)
Heart-warming and provocative, Falling in Love with the Process introduces Bill, an octogenarian stroke survivor, advocate, and charming man-about-town. Parsloe and Geist-Martin deftly weave together interviews, memories, photos, and stories featuring a compelling cast of characters who have helped Bill survive, thrive, and pay it forward to other survivors. Periodic connections to core health communication concepts make this a marvelously entertaining and accessible learning tool for students, healthcare providers, and anyone whose loved one has suffered a stroke. Laugh, cry, and learn!
Laura L. Ellingson, Ph.D.
Patrick A. Donohoe, S.J. Professor of Communication and Women’s & Gender Studies
Santa Clara University
Author of Embodiment in Qualitative Research (Routledge)
In this remarkable story of recovery, Sarah Parsloe and Patricia Geist-Martin weave stroke survivor William “Bill” Torres’ life experiences throughout his narrative of resilience. Interviews with friends, family members, health care personnel, and other patients round out our introduction to Bill Torres. Together, these remembrances of Bill—along with his own memories—provide a rich description of what it takes to work through the struggle of rehabilitation: patience, persistence, adaptation, and social support. This book would appeal to health care practitioners, health communication researchers, life writing coaches, and scholars of masculinity studies.
Jay Baglia, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Health Communication
Author of The Viagra Ad Venture: Masculinity, Media, and the Performance of Sexual Health (Peter Lang Publishing).
Bill was one of my racquetball practice partners. He helped me win the National Professional Singles Championship at the Atlas Health Club in San Diego in June 1977. Bill and I reconnected almost 40 years later when Bill’s friend, Dr. Bud, miraculously became the love of my life. Although I did not know Bill when he had his stroke, I did learn of his impressive recovery through his circle of friends. I love that his stroke advocacy work inspires and helps so many others. When Dr. Bud had a stroke in February 2019, we spoke extensively with Bill. His experience helped us enormously to make our own impressive recovery. His story epitomizes the power of love, good friends and family.
Shannon Wright MD, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer, Integrative Biology/Physiology
University of Minnesota
President of the United States Racquetball Foundation
Bill Torres is not your typical stroke survivor who works only until he or she has maximized their recovery. Bill’s recovery from his stroke was just the beginning of his journey as he discovered that he was eager to help others with their recovery. His encounters with other stroke survivors began informally, but he quickly became skilled at peer counselling, mentoring, and educating. I have witnessed how Bill’s firsthand experience, empathy, and compassion provided something unique that the doctor, nurse, therapist and family member could not. Healthcare providers, survivors, families and others will find Falling in Love with the Process a richly nuanced, informative, and enjoyable story.
Jerome Stenehjem, MD
Sharp Allison DeRose Rehabilitation Center
Falling in Love with the Process is an amazing book! I truly fell in love with it, because my family has a history of illnesses that made recovery a hard task to fulfill. Reading about Bill Torres really helped show me that although recovery is not easy, we must push to be the best version of ourselves regardless of what life throws at us. We must do this not only for our own physical health but for the love of those around us. Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Falling in Love with the Process and each intriguing story Bill had up his sleeve. He seems like a very dynamic person who has experienced more in life than many. I also liked how each story tied into a concept from health communication that we have previously explored in your Storied Health and Illness book. I enjoyed learning about different aspects that affect health communication!