As a result, Meyerson realized she wouldn’t be able to resume her former role in the classroom, where she had focused on gender and diversity. That disappointment led her to write a book—Identity Theft: Rediscovering Ourselves After Strokereleased in 2019.
“The emotional journey is so important, and there’s not enough emphasis placed on that,” says Meyerson, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management at MIT before completing her PhD at Stanford. “Recovery is more than rehabilitation.”
Working on her book helped Meyerson navigate her own personal identity crisis, she says. Given her challenges with aphasia, she had help writing it—from her husband, Steve Zuckerman, writer Sally Collings, and her three kids. Her eldest son, Danny Zuckerman, served as coauthor. The book details her own experiences and includes academic research and the stories of 25 other people recovering from a stroke or similar condition. In documenting them, she recognized a common thread. “None of the people we interviewed had been given any guidance for the emotional journey of rebuilding identity,” explains her husband, who helps when aphasia prevents her from finding words. “We talk a lot about purpose, and addressing that gap in the system became Deb’s purpose.”
Meyerson, now an adjunct professor at Stanford, knew there was more work to be done, so she and Zuckerman started a nonprofit called Stroke Onward to raise awareness and promote change in the medical model for stroke recovery. The 4,500-mile ocean-to-ocean bike ride across the US in the summer of 2022 was their latest effort. Family, friends, and fellow stroke survivors joined them for some or all of the trip.
“MIT taught me big things [are] possible,” Meyerson says.