What’s Your Mountain?

“Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” -Richard M. Nixon

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” -Sir Edmund Hillary

Beginning the climb of my highest mountain thus far, as an amputee
Mount Humphreys, Flagstaff, AZ
My hardest metaphorical mountain I had to climb, to date.
Above knee amputation
December 19, 2018

There are many types of mountains we all have to climb, or will climb, or be forced to climb in our lifetime. We are never alone in that. We all will be faced with the question, “What’s your mountain?”, and at some point we will need to face that mountain and answer the question. Each of our journeys are unique, too, albeit, similar at times, but they are our own, so we can never really learn from someone else’s “climb”. The timing may be different, the weather, your age, or attitude will make it impossible to replicate someone else’s climb. Why, do you ask, am I stating this obvious notion? As an amputee I see many other amputees who are looking to others for help, and that’s good, unless it creates a feeling of being “behind” the norm or creates a feeling of sadness and depression because the thought is, “I’ll never get there”.

This journey is mine. You can learn from things I have seen, gone through, and felt, but you will never have the same experience that I have had. I, too, became caught up in wanting to be where other amputees were right from the get go, only seeing their successes but not how much time, energy and attitude they had put into their “skill”. It was maddening! I had to tell myself, a highly competitive individual, to stop comparing and wishing for what they had achieved. I had to set my own course, take hold of my journey, and find my very own mountain to climb…….and you know what??? I AM TRULY HAPPY!!!

This is my life, my journey, my mountain. No one can claim it, no one can take it from me, and I can compete all day long with myself to be better than I was yesterday. It is liberating! It is freeing! It gives my competitive nature a huge rush! I am grateful for my decision to amputate. I wouldn’t go back to where I was: NEVER! But, (of course there’s a but) not everyday is roses. If anyone tells you that, not just another amputee, but ANYONE, then they aren’t being truthful. With mountain climbing, there are set backs, there are valleys. Those valleys can be hard and you can feel like you’ll never see the top… but you will, I promise. The valleys are where you find out who you are and what you are made of. It’s where your grit and determination are found. No one grows with success. It’s in failures and setbacks in which you will grow; mentally, emotionally, physically. With valleys come a new day to try, and to climb. When you push yourself you’ll realize one day you are at the top, you made it out of the valley and climbed your mountain, oh, and on that day, your view will be SPECTACULAR! You’ll have earned that view, and there is nothing more exhilarating or rewarding than that.

So, enough metaphors, right? 😉 I want you to know that I hear you. I hear how tough life is right now, and I am here for you. I feel an obligation and a joy, in helping those who are navigating this new world like I am. Do I have it all figured out? Absolutely not! But I am willing to walk the path with you. We can learn from each other. We can pick each other up, dust each other off and begin again. We weren’t made to go through life alone, we are creatures who thrive with community and partnerships. No matter where you are on your journey, there is someone looking to you to get to that next milestone, or point, in their own life. Be brave, be bold, be honest about the bumps and bruises, and please, be REAL!

I have spent the past 2 months pushing myself to hike, which is quite a path as an above knee amputee. I have found very rocky trails that have challenged me. It began with making it half way and turning around, to making the whole loop of 4.5 miles, to trying to push myself to achieve my highest elevation hike AND my longest. I didn’t start with Mount Humphreys in Flagstaff. I started with putting one foot in front of the other. Just walking down to the end of my block was hard and felt like torture, in the beginning! Now I can hike up and over boulders for 6 hours! This took time, determination, attitude and practice! You WILL get there! You just need to figure out what it is you want to achieve and go for it.

Oh, did I tell you? You can create your own mountains! I love the idea of putting a challenge in front of myself. That’s what keeps me going. Actually, I can recall at one point in time that I became really sad, during this journey of mine. I had done everything I set out to do in my first year of being an amputee, it was amazing but then I felt I had nothing else to prove to myself or others. Being as competitive as I am, I felt like I had lost my purpose, my drive, my “what’s next?” It was not a good time for me, but I didn’t allow myself to stay there. I began creating new goals, I set new mountains out in front. I began to create a regimen for myself and found a purpose again.

….and I have never looked back!

So, what’s your mountain? How will you attack it? Who do you have in your corner, helping you, supporting you as you take on the challenge? I’m here for you! I’m in your corner. I’m routing you on, because I know you can achieve anything you put your mind to complete.

Seize the day! Carpe diem…. go get the mountain!!

Heading up Mount Humphreys
Flagstaff, AZ
I got to my highest and longest point here for a hike.
3.1 miles up, 1,611 feet elevation change and we had to head back down due to a storm rolling in! Lightening strikes here are prevalent. Rain started, and I had to carefully maneuver down slippery rocks and roots. It took me a total of 6 hours to complete 6.2 miles but the joy was exhilarating!!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so….get on your way!” -Dr. Seuss

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

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.”