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!

In the Beginning…

Faith, Goals, Attitude.

This is my answer when people ask me how I manage, or when they wonder how I can be so happy through losing my leg. It is a choice I make everyday when I wake. Hold on, I just realized that most of you don’t know me, or my story, and that I better back up and give you insight to the last 6 1/2 years of my life. It hasn’t always been easy or filled with goals being reached, but my God has undeniably always been there for me.

I am the youngest of 5, three of those siblings being brothers. I grew up defending myself, fending off football tackles and outrunning them to avoid being the bottom of a dog pile. I grew up determined and stubborn, always looking to prove myself.

I married my high school sweetheart and have two handsome sons (yep, I’m biased!). At 40 years old I decided to get back to karate, and worked hard to get through my testing for my 2nd degree black belt. That’s when my life changed, forever, and when I needed to rely on faith and God to save me from myself.

During the sparring portion of my testing I heard a pop in my knee and felt a pain like I had never felt before. This is were “stubborn and determined” came in… I continued with the rest of my testing, not able to stand on my left leg, so I used it to kick. I wanted this so bad! I did finish my testing, but the next day the doctor told me I had torn my MCL. The good news was that this didn’t require surgery, just some PT for a few weeks. The bad news, after four weeks of PT I was no better, actually worse. THIS was just the beginning. In July, I had hamstring augmentation surgery to fix my MCL, with a meniscus clean up. In September I had a manipulation to break up scar tissue plus ANOTHER meniscus clean up, and by December I had a femur resurfacing! No one knew why I struggled to heal. No one knew why I was in so much pain, it just didn’t make sense.

This was the beginning of my challenges but also the beginning of my faith journey. This was when I knew I had to rely on something more than myself.

Fast forward a few years and I had now been to several surgeons, and had multiple surgeries to “fix” what was wrong. I had done a full knee replacement by 44, and a full revision on that knee by 45. That was when I noticed in my reports the use of the word Arthrofibrosis; hyper-scarring. I started to do research on this condition, only to find out that there wasn’t a lot you could do for it. There were just a few doctors throughout the United States that even dealt with it, but NOT if you’d had a knee replacement. I had tried everything to “fix” myself, and I mean everything! I did PT for 6 1/2 years, I had done needling, acupuncture, cupping, eastern medicine, scopes. If someone suggested something, I gave it a try. I had surgeons astounded at all that I had done to help myself, but there was nothing else for me, nothing else I could try. I couldn’t bend my knee past 40º, and couldn’t straighten it past 20º. I had no range of motion, and all the pain. God help me if I caught my toe on a rug! The pain that I would experience would be excruciating. I could no longer go for walks with my dogs, no more skiing with my family, forget hiking, and there was no more biking as I couldn’t bend my knee enough to pedal. The more I walked the more swollen and painful my leg would get. This is where I feel God really came into my life. I mean, I knew He was always there, but there was something different now. There was a connection like I had never felt before, a closeness.

I spent most of these years trying to get better, trying to find a way out of this mess. I kept myself busy with appointments, PT, and homeschooling my two boys. I kept looking for the positive, trying to keep my chin up, but there were a few moments that I remember standing in the shower, tears rolling down my face, wondering why this had happened and blaming myself. Regret that I had screwed up, and that I wasn’t a good enough wife or mother because of all the surgeries and times laid up.

God brought me to my knees.

I had been reduced to nothing, and that’s when I really started to see and feel God’s presence in my trials. They say when you are in a valley that all that’s left is looking up. And that’s what I did.

Was it easy? Is it easy? No way! I am human, and I am weak. I stumbled back to fears and guilt and worry, but I fought for my relationship with God. I felt that He had something more for me, for my life. I needed to go through this to fulfill His plan for my life. That was when I embraced the journey, and that was when joy was restored.

I continued on the path of surgery, PT, healing, decline, back to surgery and all over again. Sometimes I felt discouraged, A LOT of times I felt discouraged, but I kept plunging ahead. With each new direction I took, with each new surgeon who would look at my case, and with every person I encountered along this path, I realized I was meant to meet them, and my life gained new meaning, this journey gained a purpose. I could start seeing how God could and would use me, if only I continued to have faith in Him. I chose to see God working in these moments, it almost became a game to see where each new encounter would lead me or how each person would contribute to this path I was on. It wasn’t until more recently that I saw how God used me in their lives as well.

I knew, without a doubt, that His plans for me were unfolding. He used the fact that I was an active person, who tied up my identity in being strong, athletic, and self-reliant when in reality I just needed to identify as His daughter. I have been humbled and broken, so I could be remade. This is my story.

To be continued…

Where are you in your life? Who are you in your story, in your journey?

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This is me!

Today is the first day. A first day for all new things and new possibilities! When I wake up and get my leg on I realize that this is who I am, now and forever. I also realize that anything can happen. This morning I started my day differently, I put on my running blade. Today was the day, I was going outside, pushing fear aside and running…. for real! What you need to know about me is that I am a perfectionist and I like to challenge myself ALL THE TIME! However, fear can be crippling and although I’ve had my running blade for about a month and a half I’ve only really walked on it. I mean, yeah, I did a few “joggy” steps (I call them leaps) and only late at night when no one would see me.  I mean, what if I looked silly? Worse yet, what if I fell?? In front of people!! No way, not me. I never wanted to have people see me NOT succeed.  Well, I realized that without failure there can be no success. We cannot learn by successes and if I truly want to be transparent (One of my words for the year) then I surely need to swallow pride and be real, be me in the moment.

Now, what I have learned from being transparent, thus far, in this juncture of my life is that I can motivate others. People relate to “real”, they connect with transparency. If I want to reach others, share my story, and show there is hope to tragedy and setbacks, then I must walk the walk.

Today, when I woke and decided to put on my running blade instead of my walking leg, I made a conscience decision to put it all out there and go All In!  I must tell you, my stomach churned and my fears were high. I actually walked around in front of my house about 10-15 minutes before I decided to go for it. Was it pretty? NO! Did I run a long distance? No! Did it hurt? In more ways than you’ll ever know. But I did it! I stopped several times to rest my leg but I would start up again. Sometimes I’d tell myself, “Get to the end of the block, you can do that. Don’t stop til you get there.” That positive self talk was powerful. Baby steps the whole way. Normally, I’d be frustrated with myself for being so weak but I have a clearer vision for myself than I have ever had before. I have a God who has been beside me throughout this whole journey, and what a journey it has been!

I am proud of what I accomplished today because it was more than the day before. Tomorrow I will wake and there will be new possibilities for me, new goals to set and break, and a glorious God to praise for all that he has done for me out of His great love.

I hope to see you back here as I unpack how all this started for me over 6 1/2 years ago.

Leave a comment, share this with someone you know who needs encouragement. I pray that you find my story helpful in some way.

God Bless!

Angie