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Neurologist stroke survivor spreads awareness about warning signs

May is Stroke Awareness Month
Neurologist, colon cancer, and stroke survivor, Dipika Aggarwal
Posted at 6:10 PM, May 01, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After one neurologist suffered a stroke in 2019, she is spreading awareness — especially during May, Stroke Awareness Month — for the symptoms to look out for.

Dipika Aggarwal was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2018. After a year of treatments and chemotherapy, the results came back cancer-free, but she didn't know another hurdle would come her way.

"I was there all by myself having my breakfast, and then suddenly, I have a severe headache," Aggarwal said. "But that didn’t make me think about having a stroke because it was just a bad, severe headache."

A friend was able to help Aggarwal, who was slurring her words.

The stroke was the start of a life of therapy and advocacy.

"Every second of delay, that can kill 32,000 neurons or the brain cells every second," she said.

Time is of the essence, which is why the American Heart Association has a strategy to notice symptoms — F.A.S.T.

  • F — Facial droop
  • A — Arm weakness
  • S — Slurred speech or not making sense
  • T — Time to call 911

"The faster you can get medical help, the faster you can reach the hospital, the less your brain will be damaged," Aggarwal said.
While strokes can come on quickly, Aggarwal knows, from experience, recovery can be slow.

She was unable to speak or walk after her stroke. Now, five years later, she can walk and talk.

But Aggarwal said she still takes it day by day.

"I am seeing improvement," she said. "It’s not that three or four months out or a year out it stops improving."

Aggarwal helps amplify heart health awareness through her work as a Go Red for Women ambassador.

Dipika Aggarwal at a Go Red for Women event.

"It does not make me feel weak that, oh, I'm a stroke survivor," Aggarwal said. "No, it makes me feel proud that, oh, yes, I am a stroke survivor and I am going to spread awareness."