Cautious Anticipation

I sit here in my ocean blue Jeep Rubicon, warm air blowing in through the open windows, outside of my prosthetist’s office, waiting with bated breathe for my appointment time. Today is a day I’ve been looking forward to for over a year! However, I am cautious. Over the past 8 years of injury, surgery, more surgeries, blood clots and an amputation I have learned a lot, and to have patience and be careful what I wish for are just some of the lessons. Today I am going in for my skin fit socket! For those of you who are not familiar with amputation and amputee living, I will explain.

The Limb Center
where my prosthetists make my life so much better!

When you first get a socket, after stitches are out, you are swollen and tender, so your socket is larger to fit your limb comfortably. However, as you wear your prosthesis more and get back to exercising, your limb begins to shrink. Your muscles atrophy and in my case I was losing a lot of weight, too. I was having to get new sockets made every 2-3 months! Under the socket I wear a thick liner which I roll onto my limb which enables me to slide into my socket and create suction, which keeps it in place…until it doesn’t! My leg would naturally shrink because of all my activity so I would have to take it off and add “socks” over my liner to thicken up the fit so it would keep the suction. Everyday, throughout the day this would be my routine. As it would continue to shrink I would have to wear two or three socks at a time, and that’s when we would know it was time to make another cast of my leg and create a new socket, smaller and better fitting.

Randy and David and my new skin fit leg!

Along with those trying times of figuring out the right thickness needed for me to feel good in my socket, and changing the thinkness throughout the day, my routine also consisted of washing the liners every night. EVERY NIGHT! I’ve been doing that for over a year now. After taking my leg off at the end of the day I would make sure I washed the liner so it would be dry by morning to use again. At first I thought, I have to do this for how long? But like everything else, I got a routine and it became second nature.

So that’s a little bit about my life as an amputee, now back to my cautious anticipation. When I first came into my prosthetist’s office back in March of 2019 they said that with my activity level they would like to see me get into a skin fit socket as soon as possible but we would have to wait for the changes in the limb to stop. I was told it would take about a year to get there. Well, here I am outside waiting, 1 year and 2 months later, to get my skin fit socket!! I can’t wait to see the design I asked for and feel the fit, but I am cautious. You see, I know that, like my first time putting a socket on, there are growing pains. I had rashes and bruising for several weeks when I first started wearing my leg-with the liner. Now that my limb is use to the liners, as much as I am so excited for this more intimate fitting socket, I know that there will be some skin issues that I’ll have to deal with and push through. I know it’ll be an amazing fit because that’s what my guys do (and they do it well) and I am so grateful for their dedication to their craft, but some of this is just part of the game.

Leg in a Bag
As I get ready to try it on we have parts everywhere!
Such is the life of an amputee.

I wait here, excited for this new chapter, anxious and cautious but excited, for what it’ll allow me to do. It signals that I have overcome a year of change and trials. I am a warrior and conquering the challenges that come with the journey. I have learned to live in the now, to be present and remain happy in the moment I am in, despite the challenges. Change is going to happen but I will conquer what comes my way when it gets to me and not before. These times where I’ve been waiting for the next socket, the skin fit socket, I have learned so much about being an amputee, about my pain thresholds (they are pretty high), and how to make what I have work for me. I look forward to what waits for me on the other side of their door today but I will not rush into it as I know there will be a new learning curve, a new set of challenges. I will enjoy where I am, right now. There is a lot to learn from each moment. There’s so much excitement in not having to wear or wash liners! There’s a joy in me, knowing I won’t have to play with thickness, finding the comfort I need by adding more socks throughout the day! However, I will now have to learn how to use a bag to pull my leg and skin down into my socket and avoid pinching my skin. I will surely find that parts of my socket will rub my skin raw as it adapts to the new fit, but in the end I will feel more free, more at home in this socket and with this positive outlook I know, without a doubt, I will be more successful, more driven and more active then ever before. I will feel complete!

I approach the building and hold my breathe with cautious anticipation. As I open the door and hear the familiar, happy greetings a small smile slides from my lips and I know my new journey is about to begin.

The new skin fit socket is on and feels great!!
I got this!

Get Out and Play

Street SUP on my new Kahuna Bombora Board

“Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.”

Stuart Brown, MD

I have spent the past year making up for lost time.

For those of you who don’t know me or my story I was sidelined from my normal activities 7 years ago by a karate kick and multiple surgeries. I regained my life with an elective above knee amputation on December 19, 2018.

I have spent this past year setting and completing goals of all sizes and levels of difficulty. As I sit here and think about all I’ve accomplished I realize they all have one common thread: they are fun! Yes, fun! I had fun setting the ”impossible” goals. I had fun training for these “impossible” goals, and you guessed it, I had fun accomplishing them, as well. Impossible is only a mindset, or a comment made by someone who sets limitations on themselves or others. For example, I was told I would never walk again if I amputated, by a doctor…. A DOCTOR!!!

As my 1st year as an amputee came and went I started to look at what was next, what goal did I want to achieve? I realized that I wanted to focus on having fun. I wanted to go out and play. As I started to learn how to skateboard, street SUP, and scooter around my neighborhood I realized the health benefits as well. Not only was I outside enjoying time with my teenager in activities he loved, I was gaining balance, control of my new norm and learning new skills while I laughed and amazed myself. This was a far cry from what I expected I’d ever be able to do again in my life. And I was told I’d never walk again! HA! Please don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. If you have a goal, a drive, and a positive attitude then the sky’s the limit. Go for it! Try new things. Adapt! Live the life that you want to live.

I realized that this past year I have enjoyed what I have accomplished, I am a happier person for it. Also, one thing I have noticed is that happy, positive people attract happy, positive people. I am so grateful for all the amazing people I have met this past year. I am a better person for it, because of those who have entered my life. I am amazed at the turn my world took the day I made the decision to amputate. I have never, not once, regretted my decision and I am grateful to a God who loves me enough to never leave me and who has bless me with this life I am getting to live.

So, what are you going to do to start really living your life? Get out there, make a difference, set a goal. Laugh and play. Try new things. Master something that you’ve always wanted to do. Smile and you’ll be surprised at the reaction of the world around you. I believe in you!

Now, go play!

“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Khalil Gibran

Running the Race: Step by Step

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

That hill you see before me was quite intimidating. As you can see by my head down, my focus wasn’t on the long, incline ahead, just the next step right before me. Going in to this Rock n Roll 10K I had preconcieved notions of what “my” race was going to look like. Several months ago I was sure I was going to be running every step with ease, then as it drew closer I realized that my socket wasn’t fitting properly and I had gotten sore and banged up a little from every day use. Such is the life for an amputee, especially during the first year. During the first year or so the limb is constantly changing and shrinking. For me, I have been so active and getting back to my routine that I have change in my limb throughout the day.

Getting back to this race before me. One of the hardest things for me to do is to admit if I have overshot my goals. I’m a perfectionist and very strict with my goal setting. This is good AND bad. It’s good because I believe that being hard on myself has helped me, especially this past year, focus on positive outcomes and not on the pain and challenges of my new norm. However, if I’ve ever come to a point in which I know that a goal just can’t be reached, in MY timeframe, I struggle with disappointment and feel like I’ve let myself down. This is bad and can be self-destructive.

This 10K race was the first goal, since my amputation, that I knew I wasn’t going to shine at and achieve….not the way I had visualized it anyway. I wasn’t competing with others, I was competing with myself, and I wasn’t going to win. While I was on this long road, head down in deep thought, I did a lot of self-talk. I had to find a way to finish with my head held high. This was the moment I knew that I was out of my comfort zone and where God was stretching my resolve and building character within me. He knew the struggle within me and now, in the midst of this trial, He was working on me; making me a better version of myself. As Helen Keller stated above, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet »

Needless to say, I finished my 10K as an above knee amputee. I drew positives out of it; for example, I have never walked that pace for that long. I endured nerve pain, like no other, to accomplish that and I never gave up! I was able to put in a few running strides and gave my running blade some purpose. I had beautiful friends surrounding me throughout the race who gave me the space I needed to think through my mental game but also knew exactly when I needed some conversation to distract me from the pain. Best of all, I finished! I looked up, saw the finish line, smiled and pushed forward strong. People cheered for me, people I didn’t even know (they probably saw the pain on my face, and surely noticed my ginerly gate) and gave me high fives. It was then that I realized what I had accomplished. And I did it for me! I am proud of myself and the perseverance it took for me to push myself 6.2 miles. I am grateful for the friend who challenged me to this race a week before my amputation, a year ago. I am so thankful to my PTs and medical staff that joined me in this quest. It was hard, so very hard, but when pushed against the ropes I can say that I came out victorious and a better person for it. I learned more about who I am in those moments of pain and weakness than I could ever just sitting back and watching life pass by.

The true goal may never have been to «finish » the race but to find out who I am, to see who God created me to be. Whatever your « race » in life, just know that it’s not about the finish line, but the journey. Each one of us has our own hurdles and struggles. We must not give up! It is in these trials that we experience the most growth within ourselves. Be Bold! Focus on the next step! Never give up! You may surprise yourself on the road you end up walking. Use those hard moments to strengthen your soul. Enjoy the journey, I know I am!

Mana

Power!

Mana is the Hawaiian word for power. The power of the wave as it takes you. It’s an amazing feeling once you get out on the water and glide with that power. The power of that wave comes from beneath the water’s surface. It’s in constant movement, almost as if in conflict with itself. The Power changes as it encounters the terrain of the ocean floor. It’s an incredible feeling to release yourself to the power of the ocean and use it to feel the stoke of catching your first wave.

Last month I had the opportunity to head to Kauai. We have had the good fortune to go the last several years, but for every year we went, I was injured, or recovering from surgeries. I never got to really get in the ocean, never got to experience the Mana of the waters, that is until this year. After losing my leg I was determined to get back up and not let my life be dictated or defined by my amputation. I set goal upon goal. If I didn’t have some crazy hard goal to reach I probably would’ve gotten caught in a rut and felt sorry for myself. Knowing this trip was upon us I decided with only 4 weeks to go that I’d let me PT know that I had come up with my next BIG goal: surfing! He asked if I’d ever surfed; nope! But I was determined to do something new and face the fear of trying it without a leg. I had no previous experience so I could create the feeling of catching a wave for the first time to this feeling, with a prosthetic. Why not?

Mana: power. It is within each of us, lying just underneath the surface. It is given to us by a higher power and can be turbulent depending what’s going on below the surface; just like the ocean’s Mana.

I found amazing people in Kauai at the Hanalei Surf School. I don’t believe they usually get many amputees but Jimmy became my instructor. Jimmy is the one who explained Mana. When I was out on my board, in the middle of that big, blue ocean, feeling those waves glide below me and around me, I could feel the Mana. It was an incredible feeling. To start to paddle with that power just below me and then to stand and be driven forward by it, it was a feeling like no other!

I am so grateful to the amazing people who helped me succeed and who helped me find a new deep love of the ocean. To see that blue water with different eyes, it’s a precious gift, one which I can never repay them for, but I can appreciate it and love it forever, like never before.

Like the ocean, our power comes from within/ from the depths of our souls and is just as beautiful. We have the power to love, accept and help each other. We also have the power to hate, tear down and destroy. What will you do with your power? God has a purpose for each of us. His love is unconditional and His grace is pure and abundant.

Mana, a power that is so beautiful, so strong. It can drive you forward or knock you over. Find your balance, keep your eyes forward, slow down: advice from Jimmy.

Hey Jimmy, I found my palm tree to focus on. Find beauty in the Mana within you.

May you be blessed with such an eye opening experience as I had of our beautiful oceans.

Mahalo hoa!

Pride and Fear

Have you ever had a moment when everything became crystal clear and you could see what’s holding you back from being your best, achieving a goal, or moving forward?

Yep, that happened to me this morning. It’s not the first time and I know it won’t be the last.

You need to know something about me. I am a perfectionist and highly competitive (with myself and with others). As an amputee I have realized that this has been amplified! You hear people say ‘you can’t do this’, ‘you won’t be able to do that’, and you even have doctors tell you, “You’ll never walk again.” (Yes, that happened to me when I was trying to decide to have the surgery). Every day I face fears. Fears of not being good at something, fears of falling on my face-literally! Fears that I won’t measure up to my own standards. I am not a patient person, but I am working on that…rather, God is working on that in me.

Back to today. I decided to put my running blade on right away this morning, hoping that it would motivate me to get out there and practicing running. It took a little while but I grabbed my backpack, donned my new wrist guards (falling is especially painful on the wrists), grabbed some gum and my music. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go but after walking down my block, bladed unlocked and in full free swing, I decided that today I was going to try my hand at another 5K, this time trying to run as much of it as possible.

Now, I live in a big community where every path I take is in full view of a million cars rushing by. Fear #1: If you fall, EVERYONE will see! Fear #2: Why can’t you look like you’ve been running before? Your gate is goofy and no one who sees you will understand that you have just started to relearn running.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s all about MY journey and where I’m at in that journey. I know this should only matter to me, but remember, I’m a perfectionist. The problem with being a perfectionist is that we never allow ourselves time to get better. For me, I want to be good at whatever I do, as soon as I do it. Did I tell you I can be impatient, too?

Remember above, when I asked if you have ever had a moment of clarity? Here comes mine for today….

After running for about 1 mile I decided to stop on the side of the road to add a layer of padding in my socket. I have to sit down, take off my blade, add another sock to my limb and replace the blade, making sure it’s fitting right so I can start running again. I grabbed my backpack, began to walk and feel how the leg was fitting when I realized that there was a odd fit in the back of my socket so, MID STRIDE, I decided to grab hold and pull up, which put my blade too far behind me and I hit the toe and the knee crumpled! Down I went! As I tried to “roll out of the fall” I took my right shin into the carbon fiber blade which left a beautiful blue bruise rising out of my shin. This happened right on one of the busiest roads we have in our community, many cars were driving by, and my only thought was, “Get up, pretend that didn’t just happen.” It’s embarrassing! My #1 fear, realized.

BUT, this is when clarity struck. As if the Holy Spirit spoke softly to me, I could hear a voice say to me, “It’s ok, this makes you stronger as you realize you are weak without me. Stay focused on the big picture.” I realized in that moment, as tears welled up in my eyes, that I allowed Fear and Pride to inhibit me. I cannot perform to my best ability when I am fearful or prideful. If I could just remember that God was in control, I could accomplish anything! Those tears were not because of physical pain but of emotional release of the epiphany I just had in the midst of a trial. God uses those moments to teach. He teaches us that alone we are weak but with Him all things are possible.

I love the verse: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Those fears are what we see when we are in the dark, when we let our guard down and forget to look up to the one who created us and loves us.

Do you let fear or pride stop you from experiencing life? Do they keep you from trying new things or living free? “Stop fearing and start living”- this is a mantra I am trying to live by. Everyday I need to remind myself that fear is imagined and pride is not helping me. Today, I was reminded of how quickly I revert back to fearful living. This takes a lot of practice and being present in each moment.

I am grateful for the bruise on my leg today. It will be a constant reminder, this coming week, of how I need to be present more often in each moment and how fear can stop me from succeeding at what I want in life.

Be a WARRIOR not a WORRIER!