Nearly 180,000 Americans are diagnosed with it every year, but it took a movie star to bring it into the spotlight.
In March 2022, Bruce Willis revealed he was diagnosed with aphasia and stepping away from his career.
Thanks to the actor, one Arkansas man is bravely sharing his story with the disorder, from his diagnosis to how it has changed his life and allowed him to grow in a way he never could have imagined.
In his garden, Greg Loyd feels a sense of peace.
“I can be in the worst mood and open the back door and see my plants and be so excited,” Loyd said.
Especially when life feels a bit off. Loyd has aphasia, a language processing disorder that steals a person’s ability to communicate.
He developed it after a stroke in 2015, leaving damage to his brain. Loyd was only 33.
“It was really scary. Mentally inside I didn’t know what was going to end up happening,” Loyd said.
The biggest challenge Loyd said is knowing what something is, but not being able to come up with the word for it.
“I don’t try and think of big words and stuff like I used to. I try and keep everything short and sweet, especially with food,” Loyd said. “I can cook the food, but I can’t tell you half the time what it is.”
After his diagnosis, Loyd had to take a step back from his job as a chef. He went from cooking the food to growing it.
“We started with one garden then we started composting and now we’ve got five,” Loyd said.
It also helped to know he wasn’t alone. Loyd found a second home at the UAMS Speech and Language Clinic which hosts a class specifically for people living with aphasia.
The director of the graduate program, Dana Moser, said it has two purposes: to train the students and to serve the community.
Moser said the course provides speech, language and reading therapy, as well as education on a condition that’s not often understood.
“There are people that sometimes, when you’re talking to them, their language doesn’t seem that bad,” Moser said. “But if it’s preventing them from being able to do the things that they want to do, or from having deep conversations with their loved ones, then that can be really frustrating.”
Most importantly it serves as a support system.
“It gives you the confidence you need to try to help and to do more than you might have done beforehand,” Loyd said.
For now, Loyd said he is taking it one day and sometimes, one word, at a time.
“I always say patience, patience, patience,” Loyd said. “It’s my favorite word. Patience.” If you are interested in learning more about aphasia or the clinic offered by UAMS, click here for an extended interview.